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Human Rights Commission: In Depth Look

by Larry Bush on 06/13/2011

in Paper Trails

San Francisco Human Rights Commission attendance records provided by the Commission

2010 2009 2008
Commissioner Percent Total Percent Attended Total Percent Attended Total Percent
Breyer-Black 3 5 60%
Baghdadi 0 7 0% 8 17 47%
Chan 16 17 94% 18 19 95% 16 17 94%
Chung 15 17 88% 16 19 84% 14 17 82%
Dunlop 8 13 62%
Dajani 14 16 88% 10 12 83%
Kelleher 1 1 100%
Lee 12 17 71% 17 19 89% 15 17 88%
Longo 4 7 57% 10 19 53% 4 4 100%
Mavis 4 4 100%
Mohajer 10 17 59% 12 19 63% 11 17 65%
Richardson 14 17 82% 16 19 84% 16 17 94%
Ruiz 15 17 88% 17 19 89% 16 17 94%
Sohcot 12 14 86%
Sweet 14 17 82% 17 19 89% 16 17 94%
Turman 8 17 47% 12 19 63% 8 17 47%

 

Mayor Ed Lee began his city government career as the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission, which has grown to become ground zero in guiding the city toward greater inclusion and to eradicate discrimination. It has the final verdict on whether city contractors comply with laws on minority, local and women-owned business requirements, with requirements that benefits be extended to all employees equally, and for raising awareness issues to city agencies including the police department, health department and others. It was through the Human Rights Commission that San Francisco first adopted an inclusive family policy in 1990, and it more recently has been the venue to address concerns over police surveillance of minorities and particularly Islamic residents.

Its attendance record as a whole and with specific commissioners is one of the lowest of all city commissions. In comments to the San Francisco Appeal on June 10, Commission Executive Director Theresa Sparks acknowledged that some commissioners believe that the records are inaccurate in reporting their absences. Sparks told the Appeal that the figures, which were also provided to CitiReport, “are the best we have” and are supported by the city’s payroll records that provides a stipend to each commissioner for each meeting attended. It should be noted that every commission meeting opens with a presentation of the prior meeting’s meetings, including attendance, and there have been many opportunities for commissioners to ask that the minutes be corrected if wrong.

Sparks says that commissioners have until Tuesday, June 14, to ask for the record to be corrected. That date coincides with the Board of Supervisors vote to appoint current Human Rights commissioner Julius Turman to the Police Commission. The seat is a Board appointment. Turman’s attendance record in 2010 was recorded at 47%, less than half of all meetings.

In his “Good Government Guide, An Overview of Laws Governing the Conduct of Public Officials”, City Attorney Dennis Herrera noted that “Repeated failure of for‐cause commissioners to attend meetings could constitute official misconduct, which could lead to removal from the commission. Further, failing to attend meetings over a period of time could result in a finding that a commissioner has abandoned the position, causing the removal of the commissioner. San Francisco Administrative Code § 16.89‐17 (hereafter “Admin. Code”).”

Mayor Lee’s office states that low attendance will be taken into consideration by his office when a commissioner is reviewed for reappointment or to be appointed to another position. The Board of Supervisors’ President, David Chiu, could not be reached for a statement but has said he is expected to support Turman, who has been politically active and generous to political candidates, including to two supervisors who now will vote on his appointment. Both have indicated either full support or likely support.

Comment from HRC Ex Dir Theresa Sparks:

June 13, 2011

Dear Mr. Bush:

As Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC), I find it necessary to challenge your recent analysis of the HRC and our commissioners as having “the worst attendance record ostensibly of all the City Commissions.” (S.F.’s commissions-where is the beef?, San Francisco Chronicle, June 13, 2011.)

In addition you refer to the HRC in a similar article on-line, “as having one of the lowest attendance records of all city commissions.” (Human Rights Commission In Depth Look, Citi Report, June 13, 2011.)  I find your assessment particularity troubling as evidenced by an additional on-line article, “By The Numbers: Commission Attendance”, where a review of the numbers would counter your proposition and suggest that the Human Rights Commission has a reasonable attendance record, at least within the context of other City Commissions.

The differential between the lowest attended Commission meetings of 60% and 65% and your stated 73% attendance rate for the HRC would suggest that our commissioners are by far NOT “the worst.”  Furthermore, the attendance of Human Rights commissioners is well within the broad range of other City Commissions who report the lowest in the 60 percentile and the highest in the 90th.  In addition, until you receive records for all Commissions, it is probably unreasonable to draw any comparative analysis about any one Commission.  I am fearful that you are using our reported numbers for your own personal reasons to politically attack one or more of our commissioners.  You also fail to mention the additional time spent by HRC commissioners on other agency-related activities such as Chairing one or more of our standing Advisory Committees, overseeing any one of many temporary citizen work groups or presiding over HRC public hearings related to both Local Business concerns and non-discrimination.  Our commissioners, as a group, work very hard for the City andCounty of San Francisco for little or no personal benefit.  They deserve our respect, thanks and admiration for their public service.

I ask that you retract this erroneous reporting or that at the very least you correct the online version of the op-ed published in today’s San Francisco Chronicle.  As the Executive Director of the HRC, I find this to be a matter of creditability and accountability which I take very seriously.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Respectfully,

Theresa Sparks

Executive Director

San Francisco Human Rights Commission

 

 

Response:

Thank you for your attention to the op-ed article I authored and the posts I made at CitiReport.

I believe you may have failed to carefully read the record.

As you point out, one commission had an attendance record of 60%. That was the Relocation Appeals Board. It meets once each year and has five members. I do not think it offers a serious comparison with the Human Rights Commission, nor do I think any fair minded person will agree that it is a fair comparison.

I stated that the Human Rights Commission has one of the worst attendance records of any commission with serious responsibilities. If you believe that the Human Rights Commission does not have serious responsibilities, then I would accept your contention that it is fair to compare it to the Relocation Appeals Board. I would note that the Relocation Appeals Board members are not eligible for participation in the city’s health plan, while HRC commissioners are eligible.

You may not know that I have given past acknowledgement for the work of the Human Rights Commission, and staff there can brief you on my effort to bring your work forward to the Department of Housing and Urban Development as that agency considered the issue of LGBT discrimination and the existing records of cases. I wrote about that in CitiReport and praised them for the role they played in providing information that has led to announcements of new, fairer federal policies.

I hope that the Commission will continue to produce work that is valuable to the city and to all communities.

Sincerely yours,

Larry Bush


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