Council Approves Changes to Human Rights Commission, and Other Boards

By Adam Swift

The City Council approved several revisions to the ordinances governing city boards and commissions at its meeting on Monday night.

Chief among the changes is one that does away with the ability for the Human Rights Commission to act as a mediating board in the city.

“These ordinance updates were submitted to the council just over six weeks ago, and since then, I have appeared before this body explaining some of the general reasons for these revisions,” said Claire Inzerillo, the city’s policy analyst and writer. “To sum it up in two words, I would say consistency and efficiency were the main goals here.”

Some of the changes to the Human Rights Commission included providing a membership range, to make it consistent with other city boards and commissions, and adjusting the term dates and quorum requirements.

“The big chunk that was changed was the mediation power,” said Inzerillo. “Our Human Rights Commission in Revere has no judicial authority, this comes from adopting Massachusetts General Law Chapter 233, Section 8. Big cities like Boston or L.A. have this sort of power, Revere does not.”

She said the new language removed the judicial authority that was vested in the original language for the Human Rights Commission.

“We don’t have the manpower or the training available to address alleged human rights violations,” said Inzerillo. “This we leave to law enforcement, and we also have the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination that exists for this purpose. The policy before you now reflects the advocacy and educational work being done by the Human Rights Commission with regards to completely voluntary educational events and awareness days.”

Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino said he was pleased with the revisions that were being made to the operation of the Human Rights Commission.

“The Human Rights Commission, in my opinion, should not be a judicial body,” said Serino.

If there is a discrimination issue with a resident, Serino said the executive director of the Human Rights Commission should privately discuss the proper legal avenues to have it addressed.

“The Human Rights Commission should be, as Mayor (Brian) Arrigo explained to me originally when he asked for my support of it in 2020, that is should be a city board that plans and promotes diversity and hosts flag raisings for Pride Month or commemorates Black History Month or Women’s History Month,” said Serino. “I personally, as a city councillor, was really troubled when the Revere History Museum, which is a very well-respected, nonprofit organization in this city, was brought before this Human Rights Commission two years ago. Essentially, the Human Rights Commission had to entertain an anonymous complaint that the history museum, there was racism or whatever it was or was not.

“It really upset me that these volunteers who work very hard in that Revere History Museum to make something so special for our community had to be brought through that for a board or commission that quite frankly didn’t have that authority in my opinion to do that.”

Changes to the policies for other boards and commissions were more minor in nature. The Affordable Housing Board of Trustees will now allow for the chair to be rotated among members. There were some changes to the language regarding the responsibilities of the Board of Health, and there was a change in the membership count for the Council on Elder Affairs and the Board of Library Trustees. The Public Art Commission also saw some minor language changes and an update to its membership numbers. “As the city’s policy writer and analyst, it is my job to mitigate legal risk to the city to the greatest extent possible,” said Inzerillo. “Our ordinances are the backbone of our legal structure and our everyday operations, therefore we need consistency and updated language across the board.”

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