Wednesday, September 3, 2008 at 12:00 p.m.
Fargo Human Relations Commission Regular Meeting
City Commission Chambers, City Hall
1. Welcome and Introductions
2. Approval of Agenda
3. Approval of Minutes
4. Announcements - Upcoming events
5. Discussion - Re-elect FHRC Officers, Youth Position
7. Funding Requests
8. Public Comment (12:30)
9. Other Business not Listed on the Agenda
BOARD OF HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSIONERS
Regular Meeting: Wednesday: September 3, 2008:
The Regular Meeting of the Board of Human Relations Commissioners of the City of Fargo, North Dakota, was held in the City Commission Room at City Hall at 12:00 o’clock p.m., Wednesday, September 3, 2008.
The Human Relations Commissioners present or absent were as shown following:
Present: Joy Rice, Prairie Rose, Yoke Sim Gunaratne, Lori Brownshield, Joshua Boschee
Absent: Mitch Marr, Amy Jacobson, Fowzia Adde, Hatem Nour
Chair Prairie Rose called the meeting to order.
Item 1. Welcome and Introductions
(12:00 p.m.) All Members stated their names and were welcomed to the meeting.
Item 2. Approval of Agenda
(12:01 p.m.) Joy Rice moved to approve the order of agenda as presented. Second by Joshua Boschee. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Item 3. Approval of Minutes: Regular Meeting of July 2, 2008
(12:02 p.m.) Lori Brownshield moved to approve the minutes of the July 2, 2008 meeting as presented. Second by Ms. Rice. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Item 4. Announcements
(12:03 p.m.) Nate Bailly announced the Northern Plains Conference on Aging and Disability will be held September 23-25, 2008 at the Ramada Inn, Fargo. He stated he has received a list of sessions as well as a registration form.
Mr. Bailly also announced Mujeres Unida of Women United is starting a public forum entitled “Voz de Mujer Latina Public Issues Forum”. Mr. Bailly stated the forum begins Fall 2008. He noted all forums will be held at the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center at 6:30 p.m. As Mr. Bailly stated, the forum on September 23, 2008 includes Senator Patricia Torres Ray, the first Latina woman senator in Minnesota history. He stated she will speak on Latina women in state government and the role that Latinas can play in influencing legislation.
Mr. Bailly announced the Minnesota Department of Human Rights will hold their 25th Annual Human Rights Day Conference and Forum December 5, 2008 at the St. Paul River Center, St. Paul, MN. He stated registration is $200 and Members interested in attending can contact him. More information can be requested by calling the Minnesota Department of Human Rights
at 1-800-657-3704, 651-296-5663, or TTY: 651-296-1283.
Chair Prairie Rose announced the Fargo Public Library will hold sessions on race and equality starting September 25, 2008 at the South Campus.
Item 5. Discussion
Re-election of Officers
Chair Prairie Rose spoke in regards to the re-election of the Fargo Human Relations Commission (FHRC) Officers: herself as Chair and the suggestion of Hatem Nour as Vice Chair. Chair Prairie Rose also noted the addition of Lori Brownshield to the Executive Committee as Yoke Sim Gunaratne is stepping down.
Joshua Boschee moved to re-elect Chair Prairie Rose for another term, to elect Hatem Nour as Vice Chair, and add Lori Brownshield to the Executive Committee. Second by Yoke Sim Gunaratne. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Nate Bailly posed the question, due to previous discussions and interest in, whether to post a youth position when there is a vacancy in the Fargo Human Relations Commission (FHRC) or to formally amend the ordinance and create an additional position specifically for youth. If the Commission chooses to amend the ordinance, Mr. Bailly stated, he will draft a description in an amendment for review.
In reply, Yoke Sim Gunaratne stated the Mayor originally established a nine member voting board and questioned whether the Commission has the authority to add a new position. She stated this (youth position) should be checked into and discussed with the City Attorney.
Chair Prairie Rose stated it should be fine to push for an additional member, if that is the wish of the Commission. She stated she is not aware of any legality that would hinder the decision to add a position. She did, however, raise the concern of turnover. She stated the Moorhead Human Rights Commission has 3 youth positions that together comprise one vote. She then asked whether the Fargo Commission could create an internship or program that youth could apply for if they wish to serve on the Commission.
Ms. Gunaratne added that internships should remain open to anyone interested in applying, but stated she does not like the idea of individuals being temporary Members and being able to vote. She stated there needs to be some consistency and attendance of the meetings to make valuable input. She raised the question of how the Commission defines youth.
Nate Bailly concurred and stated if the Commission decides to expand the Commission by one, the age range would need to be determined. Chair Prairie Rose also concurred stating there is an age range that falls between the cracks. She suggested to table this discussion for the working meeting.
Ms. Gunaratne asked whether there was a youth commission still operating. Chair Prairie Rose answered that there is a youth commission through the Chamber Leadership.
Item 6. Presentation
(12:12 p.m.) No presentations were made.
Item 7. Funding Requests
Chair Prairie Rose announced that funding requests were submitted, but stated the Budget Committee has not been able to meet prior to these submissions. She then proposed to move the deadlines to the 15th of each month to allow time to review requests. Mr. Bailly stated he will make the changes in the Budget Committee schedule beginning in December of 2008. He then presented the budget and funding requests to the Members. He stated that since the Commission has adopted new processes to request funding, only one submittal followed the new procedure.
Cultural Diversities: Cultivate our Culture Event - Pangea
Yoke Sim Gunaratne acknowledged, since the conception of the FHRC, Cultivate our Culture has been established somewhat as a partnership as it pertains to the mission to “Encourage acceptance and respect for diversity and eliminate discrimination”. She stated Cultivate our Culture is also partnered with the Heritage Hjemkomst Center and the Moorhead Human Rights Commission. Her question, then, is: does a funding request for Cultivate our Culture need to be submitted each year or is it a standard funding request due to the fact that it adheres to the Fargo Human Relations Commission (FHRC) mission. She stated, originally, Cultivate our Culture was assigned $500; this year, however, funding requests have been reduced to $200. In addition, Ms. Gunaratne stated the City of Moorhead is funding approximately $1000 to Cultivate our Culture, so her hope is that the Fargo Human Relations Commission can go back to their original funding of $500. She questioned what the Commission wants to do with Cultivate our Culture.
Nate Bailly confirmed that at the beginning of each year the FHRC has previously drafted a budget which has included Cultivate our Culture among other events the Commission receives requests for each year. This year, he stated, the FHRC did not budget for Cultivate our Culture, and questioned whether to remain consistent and do what has been done in the past.
Chair Prairie Rose stated the Commission has changed the procedures to be more fiscally accountable. She stated the reason for becoming more transparent is so organizations know how events are funded and can apply for funding. She stated, previously, some events were line items and budgeted for every year, but that is what the Commission is getting away from - to maintain consistency with all events. She stated she feels the Commission should stick with the new process.
Ms. Gunaratne stated organizations need to know if they need to apply and said it is up to the Commission to decide this. She questioned whether the Martin Luther King event is the only one automatically funded because it is a part of the FHRC, and if so, suggested to make a motion to say that everyone who is not part of the program need apply. She stated she was under the understanding that Cultivate our Culture did not need to apply and asked for clarification on this.
Chair Prairie Rose requested to table the discussion for public comment.
Item 8. Public Comment
(12:25 p.m.) Michael Huynh spoke to the Commission to address issues he has encountered. The first item he mentioned was that Fargo police made a statement saying his car was involved in an accident. He claims he was treated unfairly and that the accident could not have occurred. He stated he has talked to the Chief of Police to give him a fair chance to see his problem – the community problem, because of the corruption. He stated the Chief of Police said the issue is done and there is nothing that can be done. Mr. Huynh passed around pictures and had a diagram to represent the details of the alleged accident. Mr. Huynh said he is not only speaking for himself, but for all who live in Fargo. He stated he is hoping the Commission can help him find justice. Mr. Huynh stated the officer already made up his mind that his car hit the other car. He stated the police officer was getting mad and harassing him. He continued, saying the other individual filed a claim with insurance in regards to the accident.
He also mentioned police pulled him over for no reason and told him to sit in the squad car. He stated police said he ran the center line, and kept him for an hour, but did not issue him a ticket so, therefore, he could not make a complaint. He informed the Commission he has a video to support his case and hopes the Commission can get the legal system to help him. He hopes the Commission can help him write a letter asking the legal system to appoint him a lawyer and welcomed the Commission to view the video.
Chair Prairie Rose confirmed there appears to be multiple issues and stated she is not sure how the Commission can help, but suggested Mr. Huynh file his grievances with Nate Bailly.
Mr. Bailly stated he has been working with Mr. Huynh, the Office of Professional Standards, and Sergeant Ruziska of the Fargo Police Department. He mentioned that he has also referred Mr. Huynh to the ND Division of Human Rights. Mr. Bailly then suggested Mr. Huynh contact Linda Catalono of Legal Services. Mr. Huynh replied he has contacted Legal Services and was told they have too many cases and cannot take on another; which is why he is requesting a letter from the Fargo Human Relations Commission (FHRC). Mr. Bailly agreed to draft a letter to Legal Services.
(12:43 p.m.) Sherry McMahon, Fargo resident, spoke to the Commission regarding a situation that came up with assisted technology in relation to an individual’s disability. She stated a County employee prohibited the use of assisted technology. She then questioned what Cass County had for ADA Title 2 policies, but stated, after searching, found they had none. She pointed out, however, Cass County states they always comply with policies. After some research, she found it is required, according to Title 2, for public entities to have an ADA coordinator and an identified grievance process. She then asked who the designated ADA coordinator is for the City. She feels it would be a good idea to review the policies.
Mr. Bailly answered that he is the designated ADA coordinator and stated the City consulted with Freedom Resources in 2001 to survey their public buildings. He does realize, however, that it is not just a concern of physical accessibility. He stated if there are grievances, he is the contact and added that an identified grievance process could be looked into if one is not already in place.
Ms. McMahon stated postings for the North Dakota ADA policies are inadequate and only Title 1 information is available.
Ms. Gunaratne commented that needs to be brought to the attention of the Human Relations Department as they are in charge of these policies.
(12:54 p.m.) Leon Francis, Fargo resident, came to reiterate some of Mr. Huynh’s points made about police tactics, use of force, and Human Rights issues. He stated false statements are huge and police officer’s interpretations use those statements as facts. He feels individuals should have to sign a statement. He stated the police deny human rights and it affects not only the individual, but others. He said if you look at the police, there are race tendencies that no one sees.
Ms. Gunaratne asked what happened when Mr. Francis made his complaint.
Mr. Francis replied he made the complaint on the web site and Sergeant Ruziska called him. Mr. Francis stated he did not feel comfortable coming in and making a statement. He then asked for an attorney; which lead to Mr. Francis’s second point, that if you are poor, there are no lawyers available to help you. He stated he went online to the North Dakota Bar, to Legal Aide, and others and was told they cannot help him fight the Fargo Police Department. Mr. Francis did mention that he was able to get a copy of the written statement.
Mr. Huynh stated an individual does not have the right to look at what the statement says and there is no way to change the report.
Chief Ternes came to the Commission to respond to the comments that have been made. As Police Chief, he stated, he has one of two significant duties: the first is to ensure that every police officer operates within the laws and respects the civil rights of every single person they deal with; the second obligation is to the employees of the Police Department. He stated there is a comprehensive process for dealing with complaints. He stated when the police employees do something wrong, they are held responsible. He stated, however, when a police officer is wrongly accused of an action, he feels it is his duty to defend them and their actions.
Ms. Gunaratne stated when there are complaints an internal process is followed, and asked how many people examine and analyze the complaint.
Chief Ternes replied that Sergeant Ruziska is assigned to examine all professional standards, but makes no determination whether the complaint is sustained or not sustained; that responsibility is his.
Ms. Gunaratne asked at what point does an external body to look at the complaint.
Chief Ternes replied that reviewing of complaints is internal with a few exceptions-very few require external review. He added the outside body should interview everybody involved to arrive at their own conclusion as to what happened.
Mr. Francis commented that his wife and brother were not interviewed. He also added that he did not get to see the statement to point out errors before it was finished.
Joshua Boschee asked whether there was a process in place that Mr. Huynh and Mr. Francis weren’t able to utilize. He further asked if there is a process to help individuals with complaints navigate through instances such as this.
Chief Ternes answered that Mr. Bailly has been working with individuals to work through processes such as these. He stated he does not believe providing legal assistance exists.
Mr. Francis stated he did not know Mr. Bailly was there until a year after his case, so he disagrees with Chief Ternes’s statement.
Mr. Huynh pointed out that Dan Mahli did help him in 2001, but states there is still a pattern of racism.
Lori Brownshield asked whether anyone was with Mr. Francis when he was being investigated. Mr. Francis replied, no. She then asked Chief Ternes if that was something that could be practiced. Chief Ternes answered yes.
Ms. Gunaratne reiterated that this is a good reason for a public forum and stated that it looks as if some individuals don’t know their rights and responsibilities. She added this should be open to everyone and the ACLU should be brought in to help.
Ms. Gunaratne suggested Mr. Huynh see a mediator to resolve his issues.
Chair Prairie Rose added that the Commission is already in contact with the ACLU.
Item 9. Other Business
Mr. Boschee added if there is anything the Board can do to educate people so they know they can vote two weeks early, he encourages the Commission to do that. He stated if identification is not available, individuals can sign an affidavit. Chair Prairie Rose mentioned to announce the location of voting as well.
Mr. Bailly announced a letter was written to the Forum regarding illegal immigrants. He asked if a letter should be drafted in response and brought to the Commission. Chair Prairie Rose answered she would draft a letter.
Item 10. Adjourn
The time at adjournment was 1:26 o’clock p.m.