Last week, I posted about a working group that Governor Rell had formed to review the workings of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO).
Today, Hartford Courant columnist Stan Simpson has an interesting column on the same subject. It’s worth a read. It discussed the ongoing backlog of complaint and the issues that the agency has had with its leadership.
He also quotes from the current Connecticut NAACP head who laments the fact that the CHRO’s top positions are held by white males.
Now, there’s grumbling that the current key leaders — chairman, executive director, legal director, field operations and chief human rights referee — are all white males. The preferred candidate for the deputy director’s job also appears to be a white male.
"It’s the civil rights community that brought that whole agency into fruition," said Scot X. Esdaile, president of the state NAACP, which supports a thorough review of the agency. "For the [upper leadership] ranks to turn all white is criminal."
Executive Director Raymond Peck points out that about 40 percent of the 100 staffers are non-white, and that about half of the middle managers, including regional directors, are people of color.
"Would it be better if we looked more diverse at the very top? Yes," Peck said. "We want to be as diverse as we can at all levels."
However, credit Simpson with pointing out that, although the CHRO may have been built from the civil rights era, the CHRO’s functions of investigating discrimination go far beyond race discrimination today. Indeed, I pointed out in October that the Annual Report for the CHRO shows decreases in the numbers of employment law claims over the last five years, while some claims (such as harassment) have increased.
According to the report of the types of claims filed in 2006-2007, the statistics show that race discrimiantion employment claims running about equal with gender discrimination claims and not far ahead of age and disability discrimination claims. Here are some partial statistics on the numbers of claims being filed.
Simpson concludes that the best solution may be to "tear it down — [and] rebuild CHRO into an independent, apolitical watchdog that ferrets out discrimination of all kinds and promotes inclusion in state hiring." Given the numerous attempts to fix the CHRO over the years, you can’t blame him for suggesting that the agency work from a clean slate.