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Nasty letter to the HRC - from the Equity and Human Rights Director

(quote) "It has come to my attention that after I left the meeting last night, some of the conversation turned, not just passionate, but disrespectful to my staff, and questioning of the support and work of OEHR as it relates to the HRC." (end quote)
The following letter was sent to the volunteer members of the Portland Human Rights Commission

One Portland Human Rights Commissioners quit their volunteer position on the HRC right after this rude letter was sent out to commissioners. The Director is one of the "paid" staff members that is supposed to be assisting (directing) the Human Rights Commission.
The following letter is a slap in the face and is insulting to the volunteer members and the community (we the citizens).
The disrespect to the community is chilling.

(The portion of the meeting this nasty letters is referring to is here on video:  https://youtu.be/PR6W7Ul6nYs [video 22 minutes])

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On Thursday, July 2, 2015 11:17 AM, "James, Dante" <  Dante.James@portlandoregon.gov> wrote:

All,

It has come to my attention that after I left the meeting last night, some of the conversation turned, not just passionate, but disrespectful to my staff, and questioning of the support and work of OEHR as it relates to the HRC.

First, Staffing: Let me say very clearly that at no time does anyone, individually or collectively, get to disrespect my staff. They are there to support your work. Support also includes offering thoughts and suggestions on how best to accomplish your work, and navigate the waters of bureaucracy, media, organizational structure or other relevant issues. Offering these in no way implies they must be accepted. At no time have Kenya, Koffi, Jeff, Danielle, the city attorney, or I said "no" to an action of the Commission. In fact, I have defended the HRC to Commissioners who have been unhappy with HRC's work or direction. Kenya passed along information about the CPRC and was yelled at, disrespected and hung up on. Jeff has been similarly treated in the past by Commissioners. Kenya was doing her job in the HRC meeting and was yelled at and disrespected, apparently with no one saying during the tirades that such behavior is unacceptable. She has been yelled at and questioned during committee meetings. Her motives and work have been questioned. She is performing her job. Correcting my staff is my job, not yours. Let me repeat, Do Not Disrespect My Staff.

Second, Budget: As I have explained numerous times, the budget is essentially a modified zero-based budget, with an amount available based on projects performed, approximately $35,000 set aside for HRC in this past FY. This year, approximately $20,000 was spent, with $14,000 returned to OEHR's budget. The previous year $30,000 was budgeted, it was reduced to $20,000 mid-year because of no plans to spend it, and of that $20,000, $7,327 was returned to OEHR's budget. If you can't, won't or don't spend your budget by such significant amounts, there is no need to continue to set such a large sum aside. It is significantly larger than the Commission on Disability, and they have been more active than HRC. I will explain this no more either individually or collectively.

Third, Staff time: by Ordinance, OEHR is required to provide .5 FTE to support the HRC. We regularly and significantly exceed that amount of time because of the time Koffi spends with CPRC, Jeff spends on communication materials and events such as the Emily G. Gottfried Awards luncheon, Kenya spends on HRC and committees, and I spend in conversation with Commissioners.

Fourth, Media: the FB page, twitter, and any other media accounts are those of the HRC. We don't manage them. Aimee was posting content, and we have never been responsible for adding content. As of this morning, the Jeff and Kenya took time to ensure the Website is up to date with minutes of past meetings and the roster of commissioners.

Moving Forward:

Staffing: I will ask my staff to keep track of their time as it relates specifically to HRC. If or when we have reached .5 TOTAL FTE HOURS per week, we will notify the Chair by email, and that will complete our work for that week except for note taking during the week of a full commission meeting.

Media: FB, Twitter, etc. are staff time that Jeff is currently unavailable to perform, and from this point, it is for HRC to manage and add content. Any other requests for Jeff's time must be made to me to evaluate. The Office will continue to update the website with meeting minutes and notices of commission meetings.

Budget: The process will remain the same.

Independence: There seems to be a general questioning of the relationship and oversight role of OEHR vis-a vis the HRC. The HRC is a City Commission under the
Office of Equity and Human Rights. There are statutory legal requirements, there are ethical requirements, there are budgetary requirements, there are expectations of courtesy and respect between the office and the commission. These are overseen by OEHR. Failure to adhere to them impacts OEHR. OEHR will continue to manage these requirements and expectations to ensure compliance as required. The office has been transparent about these, and supportive of the HRC. OEHR has paid for consultants for strategic planning and organizational development. It has brought in the City Attorney to provide training on statutory requirements of a Commission. OEHR has provided staff support above and beyond what is required. OEHR has NOT said no to any request to allocate funds, or to perform any project or engage in any way. We have offered recommendations and suggestions, and even if strongly worded, are just that, recommendations to take or reject. If there is continued concern about the reporting structure of the office, it is a question for the Commissioner in Charge, Mayor Hales. In the alternative, the HRC is always welcome to step out on its own and become its own 501(c)(3), non-profit and conduct its affairs completely under the direction of any board it puts in place.

My direct office number is 503-823-4877 and I will inform Tonya to adjust my schedule as needed should there be any lingering questions about this email and how we will interact moving forward.



Dante J. James, Esq.
Director
Office of Equity and Human Rights