Guest Op-Ed: Looking at the Research on Human Rights Commissions

By Dimple Rana

At the July 27 City Council Appointment sub-committee meeting, Councillor Councillor Gerry Visconti repeated several times that there are 21 Human Rights Commissions in the state and of the seven boards that have executive directors, six are attorneys. According to research that I compiled, the facts are as follows, I hold a Master in Public Policy from Tufts University. I report that the Commonwealth has 33 Human Rights Commissions or Committees, six have Executive Directors who are attorneys, one of which is a city solicitor, three are departments which include the city or town’s Human Rights Commissions as a program or initiative of the city’s overall work towards Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Of the 33 Human Rights Commissions, 11 have Executive Directors that are not lawyers – instead administrative assistants, clerks, Director of Human Resources, and liaisons to the Mayor’s Office.

All but one of the 33 HRC’s have a Chair or Co-Chair position, in which currently only eight are lawyers or have a legal background. Of the 33 , which I have researched, not one commission or committee lists that there must be a lawyer as an Executive Director.  In Revere, the requirements for an executive director are as follows: “the role of executive director should be discharged preferably by an attorney of law who has a background in adjudicating violations of civil rights.”

All of the appointments of the various 33 cities and towns Human Rights Commissions are made either by the mayor or the city council or a combination of both. The Human Rights Commission resolution passed by the Revere City Council or July 27 lists that “the position is properly advertised and in which the candidates are interviewed by a committee composed of (1) the Mayor, (2) three members of the City Council appointed by the Council President, and (3) two members of the School Committee appointed by the Chair of the School Committee.  The five members of the sub-committee who are not the Mayor shall recommend two final candidates to the Mayor, who shall select and appoint based on those final two recommendations.

At the City Council Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Approval Meeting on June 29, Councillors-at-Large Anthony Zambuto, Jessica Giannino, George Rotondo, and Gerry Visconti, Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna and Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino voted against promotions for certain personnel who would have additional responsibilities in a newly structured city government. However, these same Councillors and others voted yes on July 27 to approve “the stipend of the executive director of the Human Rights Commission should be equitable and comparable to the clerks of other boards and commissions of the City”. Previous to this resolution the positions of Executive Director and Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission are listed in the ordinance as unpaid volunteer positions. Why did the City Council make cuts in key personnel salaries that they “justified as giving raises during a pandemic”, but a month later approved a full-time paid clerk’s position which previous to this meeting was a volunteer position?

Again, I ask that Councillor Visconti release his research and data on Human Rights Commissions around the state. I also ask Council President Patrick Keefe, Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino and Councillor-At-Large Gerry Visconti who sponsored the Human Rights Resolution to release their research and data used to create this resolution which like none of the other Human Rights Commission’s go to the extreme lengths in creating barriers for a clerk’s position and further stalling the creation of the commission which our city has needed and should have never become deactivated 21 years ago.

You can see the full research compiled by me, which I am currently asking peers and residents from across the state to review, edit, and comment on at:

Dimple Rana holds Master of Public Policy from Tufts University.

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