Paul Morrison is the Fort Wayne City Council’s appointment to the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission.
He submitted a report on his activities as a Commissioner this past week to the Council, as required by City Statute.
Report to the Fort Wayne Common Council from Paul Morrison, Metropolitan Human Relations Commissioner
I submit this report in accordance with City Ordinance 33.001 (B) (2) that states, “… person appointed by Common Council to any board or commission shall submit annually either a written report to the President of Common Council or come before the Council to give a verbal report prior to the end of the next to last calendar month of the anniversary of the board member’s appointment.” I was appointed by on November 10th, 2009 and it was my intention to present a verbal report in compliance with the ordinance. But conflicts with your schedule prevented this. So, I respectively submit this written report, and apologies for the delay.
As you are well aware, the City of Fort Wayne has an on-going commitment to all citizens to ensure equal access and opportunity in the areas of employment, housing, education, and places of public accommodation. Our local government, in Chapter 93 of the Code of Ordinances, has delegated to the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission the responsibility to educate, empower, and enforce anti-discrimination laws. In my first year as a Commissioner, have been privileged and challenged to work to meet this responsibility. This report will focus my accomplishments in the following three areas:
A) COMMISSIONER TRAINING
B) SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES
C) GOALS FOR 2011
A) COMMISSIONER TRAINING
Perhaps the most important aspect of being selected by the Common Council as a member of the Metropolitan Human Relations Commissioner is a basic knowledge of application of the law. But applying these laws specifically in accordance with (IAW) federal law, state statute, or local ordinance can become complex. Our Executive Director, Gerald Foday, and Staff Attorney Dawn Cummings did an excellent job of preparing me to apply the law. Specifically, I received approximately 24 hours of training in the following areas:
1) Metro’s process and performing the duties of a commissioner IAW G-21-78
2) Conducting public hearings as an Administrative Law Judge IAW Indiana code 4-21.5
3) Metro’s relationship with HUD & the Fair Housing Assistance Program
4) Specifics regarding the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights of 1968)
5) The definition of harassment as it relates to Anti-discrimination Laws
6) The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the act’s 2008 amendment
7) The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA)
In addition to the local training, I was able to attend these federally funded courses:
1) The National Fair Housing Training Academy (NFHTA) “Leadership Challenge Workshop,” Wash. DC, 1 week
2) The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Support Center, “Fair Housing Law and Enforcement, A Basic Survey of the Law and Practice,” Chicago, IL, 2 days
3) The National Fair Housing Training Academy (NFHTA) Core Curriculum Training, Week 1
Courses included: “Fair Housing Law and Ethics,” “Critical Thinking and Investigations,” and” Clear Writing Through Critical Thinking.” Wash. DC, 1 week
B) SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES
1) Participating as a member of a Determination Hearings (DH) Panel has been my most common activity over the past year. The DH is a non-public session where an investigator submits all pertinent information gathered during an investigation. The panel, consisting of no more than two Commissioners, then determines whether or not probable cause exists to support an inference of discrimination. In each session, I have typical heard 10 to 15 cases over the course of about two hours, but did have one session in which 35 cases were presented. From the first time I observed a hearing, I was very impressed with how thoroughly the investigators presented each case. When I became a participating member of the panel, the investigators case presentation and my training allowed me to quickly arrive at informed decisions.
2) During my first year, I was fortunate to participate in community outreach and education activities. These included:
The United Hispanic Gala
Fort Wayne Children’s Foundation fundraiser
The Multicultural Human Rights Camp sendoff
The Americans with Disabilities Act Anniversary Celebration
Presentation of the finding in the Rickers case.
C) MY GOALS FOR 2011
Having had an educational first year as a Commissioner, I have set four personal goals for 2011. Note: These are my personal ideas, and do NOT represent the views of any other Commissioners, or the Metro staff.
1) Identifying opportunities to receive additional federal funding through HUD and EEOC, so that Metro may reduce our need for the expenditure of property tax revenue. As the government looks to reduce spending, it looks to spend more effectively
2) Investigating the possibility of expanding the responsibility and authority of Metro though inter-local government agreements, to provide citizens through out Allen County the same level of service that we here in Ft. Wayne are afforded. If an individual outside of the jurisdiction of Metro has a complaint it will be investigate by a state or federal agency. I believe that more local control of the investigative process better serves the citizens, as well as being more fiscally responsible.
3) To become more involved in community activities that raise awareness of Metro’s function. Example: In 2010, I was instrumental in the ADA celebration being aired in City TV. Being certified as a training professional, I would like to take an active role in Metro’s discrimination prevention training.
4) Working with City Council to assure that you all are fully informed about the importance of amending Chapter 93 of the City Code. It is imperative that there are changes made to reflect that the city ordinance is substantially equivalent to: The Americans With Disabilities Act as amended in 2008 (AADA,) as well as the Genetic information Non-discrimination Act (GINA). Also, I will recommend that the Â§ 93.021 LIMITED POWERS FOR COMPLAINTS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION be amended to give it “teeth” or that it be eliminated. Recently, as the member of a Determination Hearings (DH) Panel, I had to rule against the complainant, because the respondents choose NOT to respond. I believe that it is inefficient for there to be an investigation, when the respondent is aware that not participating has no consequences.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my report with you at any meeting that is convenient for members of council. I believe that it is important that I am available to answer any question my report may raise, as well as affording the public an opportunity to learn more about the Commission as they view City Council meetings on City Government TV via Access Fort Wayne.
Submitted December 31st, 2010