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Friday, September 25, 2020

Top Stories > Government

Future of Human Rights Commission Reviewed

Jun 25, 2020

By Isabel Braverman  - staff writer

By: Isabel Braverman | Democrat
Lou Setren holds a sign asking for the Human Rights Commission to be restored at the recent meeting of the legislature at the Government Center last week.
MONTICELLO - The Sullivan County Human Rights Commission was established in 2005 to foster mutual respect and understanding in the general population for the rights of all persons in Sullivan County.
A local law adopting a new human rights law is being proposed by the county legislature, with a public hearing to be held on Thursday, July 16.
Chairman Robert Doherty said it's modeled after the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission (HRC) that was recommended by previous members of the Sullivan HRC.
“It's a jumping off point for a conversation,” Doherty told the Democrat. “I look forward to the debate and I want to keep an open mind about it and hopefully we can come to an understanding on what's best for the county.”
At the recent full board meeting of the legislature last week at the Government Center, a few residents spoke out against the proposed law and asked for changes to be made.

Steve Vegliante, Chair of the Sullivan County Democratic Committee, read a letter from the committee saying that the proposed law limits the scope of the Human Rights Commission.
“In this time of polarization and unrest, with acts of discrimination taking place in our own county, the legislature must stand up and allow the Human Rights Commission to fulfill its mission,” Vegliante said.
Doherty said he also doesn't agree with all of the changes, and for instance believes there should be nine commissioners appointed from each district.
The proposed law would reduce the number of commissioners from nine to five and the director would be appointed by the county manager subject to confirmation by the legislature.
“This is not the time to create a new position, develop an office and begin anew. This is the time to act to ease conflict and discrimination,” Vegliante said.
The Sullivan County Human Rights Commission has not had an Executive Director since the fall of 2019. Three of its commissioners, whose terms expired in December 2019, were not reappointed as requested.
In a message from the Commission, they say they are “in limbo” and have not had access to emails, which may include complaints of human rights violations from the public.
“Under these circumstances, we are not able to perform all of the duties of the commission at this time,” the message states.
People can call the New York State Division of Human Rights at 1-888-392-3644 to file a complaint.
Resident Lou Setren echoed the sentiments of Vegliante, saying if it isn't broke don't fix it.
“I implore you, rather than create a new law and create a new commission, let's restore the Human Rights Commission under the guidelines of the original establishing resolution, with an executive director and members of the commission that are independent of this body so they can fulfill their mission,” Setren said.
The legislators agreed to discuss the proposed law at upcoming committee meetings ahead of the public hearing.

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