Earlier this month, the Connecticut Law Tribune published a column by attorney Karen Lee Torre that was — how do I put this gently — stinging in its criticism of the CHRO and called for its elimination (you can find a link to it in an earlier post .)
Acting CHRO Executive Director Robert J. Brothers Jr. has responded forcefully to the column in a letter published in the Tribune this week:
…[C]olumnist Karen Lee Torre’s suggestion of eliminating or eviscerating the agency is far from constructive. Other agencies with significant responsibilities, such as the Department of Correction, Department of Public Safety, Department of Children and Families, and Department of Motor Vehicles, also suffer from criticism; similarly, it is not in our interest to eliminate any of them.
Unfortunately, whatever points Ms. Torre makes are covered by the mud she slings. What is unnecessary is not the CHRO, as she writes, but unfounded and malicious ill will, which can only hurt, not help. Her generalizations about persons of a different race or ethnicity drive home the reason this agency was created and support the need for our continued existence.
The point Mr. Brothers makes is an eminently reasonable one; there are certainly a number of quite capable people at the CHRO and it is unfair to paint the agency with a single brush. However, the problem for the CHRO is that the perception remains among some that the agency is either incompetent or incapable of fixing its affairs. Mr. Brothers seems to recognize this. Whether the agency is actually incompetent isn’t the issue; it’s fixing the perception that is.
Because eliminating the agency is not, in my view, a productive way to handle the issue, what else can be done?
Well, nearly a year ago, there were reports on a working group that was devised to propose fixes and strategies to the CHRO. But that group has worked out of sight. Thus, in the short term, the CHRO should consider publicizing that group and letting the public know that it is working on solutions. Solicit input from the public and post the results on its website.
Ultimately, regardless of the working group’s findings or proposals, the CHRO has to address the perceptions that people have — rightly or wrongly — head on and prove those perceptions wrong with real and verifiable results. Consider a strategic plan of action with defined goals and results — much like the judicial branch proposed earlier this year. Better yet, publicize the plan and get input from groups that have a stake in the future of the CHRO.
In a post tomorrow, I’ll discuss one example of how the CHRO has failed to comply with its own rules; it’s an issue that even Mr. Brothers’ called "embarassing". If the CHRO is ever going to clean up its’ image, it’s going to need to make sure that issues like that one don’t repeat themselves.