Rights commission chairman plans to give up post

July 29, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The chairman of the county Human Rights Commission said yesterday he will resign as chairman soon "to bring healing to the commission."

Roger W. Jones said he believes the commission has become too politicized and that his confrontational style will thwart rather than smooth attempts to unify the commission.

"I've said you can't end discrimination unless you can get elected officials to stop from discriminating," Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Jones blames County Executive Charles I. Ecker for politicizing the commission by not reappointing Democratic commissioners and choosing independents or Republicans to replace them.

Mr. Jones said he is "definitely too vocal for some members of the commission -- I am not laid-back like some are."

Vice chairwoman Lucie Pelgrim "speaks with a healing tone," Mr. Jones said.

"She doesn't say things in a blunt way. I can stay on as a member."

Mr. Jones said he would step down as chairman "soon, in the next month or so."

What led him to consider relinquishing the chairmanship, Mr. Jones said, was a tie vote two weeks ago on a motion that the commission endorse the idea of having a representative of the gay community serve on the commission.

The resolution did not mention anyone by name, but Mr. Jones had hoped to use it to support the nomination of Jan Nyquist at her July 20 confirmation hearing.

Instead, the commission deadlocked 3-3, with two members absent. Mr. Jones was taken aback by the vote because the commission had earlier voted unanimously to support the application of gay rights activist Robert Healy as a member of the commission.

Mr. Jones interpreted the vote as a confession of that some commissioners could not support the county's human rights law.

Dissenting commissioners saw the motion as redundant and unnecessary. The commission investigates complaints of discrimination in 15 protected categories such as age, race, religion and sexual orientation.

Ms. Nyquist pressed the county executive to appoint Mr. Healy to the commission, but Mr. Ecker wanted her instead. The County Council confirmed her appointment Monday night by a 3-2 vote that was split along party lines.

Council Democrats supported the Republican executive's nominee, council Republicans did not.

Despite Ms. Nyquist's confirmation, which he enthusiastically supported, Mr. Jones believes the executive has stacked the commission recently with people who are not as zealous in the cause of civil rights as former commissioners.

Mr. Jones points to budget cuts and staff reductions as additional evidence the administration wants to weaken the commission.

"They not only took money away, they took people away," he said. "It's divide and conquer."

Politics and human rights should not be mixed, Mr. Jones said.

"Things can happen. You can have the wrong people in the wrong place. Anything can happen."

Members of the commission could not be reached for comment on Mr. Jones' resignation. Mr. Ecker said he has not received a resignation letter from Mr. Jones.

"If it's true he is resigning, I'm sorry to hear it," he said. "Roger Jones has a lot to offer. I would hope he would reconsider."

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