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Jensen resigns from Human Rights Commission

By Derek Kirk 
Posted 3/14/23

MONTICELLO – Sullivan County Human Rights Commission Executive Director Adrienne Jensen announced that she is resigning from the position at Thursday’s Human Resources Committee meeting …

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Jensen resigns from Human Rights Commission


MONTICELLO – Sullivan County Human Rights Commission Executive Director Adrienne Jensen announced that she is resigning from the position at Thursday’s Human Resources Committee meeting of the County Legislature.

In the announcement of her resignation, Jensen noted that she felt the need for the position’s utility has been “surpassed by its support, or lack thereof.”

“Both literally and figuratively, the office size and support does not meet the immense need for the position,” Jensen said.

District 8 Legislator Ira Steingart noted the possibility of the position growing from part-time to full-time, but Jensen said that course of action would mean “only one more day.”

“I think that something that the office needs is support. I think that it really needs to be recognized as a genuine office within the county. I think that it needs that respect,” Jensen said. 

Not just black and white

Jensen said that there is far more work that needs to be done regarding the education on human rights in Sullivan County, and that she has seen “a good deal of fear in folks.”

“Fear of things that they hear about in the media but themselves have not seen to be the fact,” Jensen said. “When I came into the position, we were ruling out the turbulence and antiquated viewpoints of 2020.”

A number of those viewpoints stem from a misunderstanding of what human rights are and how it affects every single person in the county, according to Jensen.

“Folks seem to have been fearful and miseducated around the concept of human rights,” Jensen said, going on to say that some connected the topic solely with the “concern for the belabored freedom of Black and Brown people.”

Jensen noted that this was evidenced by the red herring argument over the merit of the words, “Black Lives Matter” over “all lives matter.” Jensen said that the fear around the semantical argument seemed to obscure and divert the community from the reality of the statement “Black Lives Matter,” which was that Black and Brown people have been receiving unequal treatment in a variety of fields.

“It seems that some had difficulty acknowledging that we live among systems that do need to be improved,” Jensen said. “It seems the acknowledgement of these discriminatory thoughts could not happen because if we held those thoughts in our own minds, it meant we were bad individuals.”

“There was a fear that the color of one’s skin might automatically be equated with racism,” Jensen said. “In my mind, this is a big leap. I don’t think that is the case.”

Understanding discrimination

Jensen stated that when she arrived in the position, one of her goals was to help the community understand that everyone is susceptible to receive and able to dish out discrimination against their neighbor.

“It’s built into our normal human function,” Jensen said. “It’s what we do with that knowledge that differentiates us as people and as citizens.”

She went on to explain that human rights aim to tackle inequality and inequity over many social issues, and that there are daily instances of discrimination that can be seen in the community in a variety of ways, including the unwillingness of landlords to accept lawful forms of income, the dismissive and joking manner in which inequity is approached due to its awkwardness and uncomfortableness, and even in the dismissive treatment of the elders of the community.

Housing remains an issue in the county, but Jensen highlighted the hard work of [Health and Human Services Commissioner] John Liddle and [Planning Commissioner] Freda Eisenberg, who work to address both the long-term and short term issues.

“I do hope that others in the public understand clearly the difference between creating random inventory and creating inventory for citizens who have lived here pre-pandemic,” and “those who have been experiencing housing insecurity for a long time.”

“Our county is in a state of emergency,” Jensen said. “And we are in triage mode.”

“I hope that whoever fills the position coming up that it’s someone who understands what I was just speaking about,” Jensen stated. 

“...that human rights is an issue for all folks and that it’s not something that people look at to wag a finger at someone, or create some sort of disruption, but rather to find a way to bring the county together.”

More resignations

County Communications Director Dan Hust confirmed reports that Nancy McGraw has resigned as Public Health Director effective March 3. It was reported by the Democrat last December that McGraw had been placed on administrative leave.

Hust said that Karen Holden remains the Acting Public Health Director and that the County’s intent is to appoint Holden to that role permanently, subject to NYS Department of Health approval. 

In other news, Hust  also confirmed that Planning Commissioner Freda Eisenberg is resigning, effective April 11. Deputy Planning Commissioner Heather Brown is expected to be named Interim Planning Commissioner by County Manager Josh Potosek.

* Managing Editor Joseph Abraham contributed to this report.


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