Commissioners set bias complaint rules Move disappoints activist in dispute over pizza deliveries

March 05, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The Annapolis Human Relations Commission last night approved guidelines for investigating complaints of discrimination by fast-food outlets who refuse to deliver in minority neighborhoods where crime rates are said to be high.

The guidelines, which are not much different from those applied to complaints of other kinds of discrimination, do little to solve the issue, said Robert H. Eades, a community activist who sparked the debate last year when he started a petition drive in protest of several companies that refused to deliver pizza to his former home in the Robinwood public housing area.

"They had pizza companies here tonight, and I just felt like the commission was singing to them and not dealing with the real issue at hand," said Mr. Eades. The issue, he says, is racial discrimination by food outlets that refuse to deliver to residents in predominantly black neighborhoods.

But Neil Burke, chairman of the commission, said members did not agree.

"We're using the same guidelines we've been using since all this began," Mr. Burke said. "None of us feel that this is a racially motived problem. It's safety-oriented. I talked to 18 companies in the city and not one of them said it was racial."

The guidelines, approved by an 8-1 vote, state that any citizen making a written complaint will have the complaint reviewed by the commission. If the complaint warrants an investigation, then two members of the panel will look into it and present it to the other members.

Since the commission does not have the authority to impose penalties, Mr. Burke said, that decision will be left to City Council members who must also approve the guidelines.

Although police statistics showed that an average of one food delivery person was robbed every month in the city, Mr. Eades said that those inci- dents were spread throughout the city and cited the October shooting of a Pizz-A-Boli's driver on West Street, one of the city's business areas.

"I think they should have put into writing some specific recommendations of punishment," said Mr. Eades, a taxi driver who now lives on Clay Street, another area that has been denied delivery by many companies. "The version they have now is very watered-down."

Although the City Council tried to solve the problem in December by approving a resolution urging food delivery companies to service all city neighborhoods, it also amended the measure to encourage drivers to leave neighborhoods in which they feel unsafe.

"If a pizza delivery guy goes to a certain area and sees a lot of kids hanging out on a street corner, causing trouble, then I don't expect for him to be a superstar," Mr. Eades said last night to representatives of Domino's Pizza who attended the meeting. "I don't expect him to risk his life.

"But I don't think it's fair that they can just deny delivery because of where we live either," Mr. Eades said.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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