Tuesday, June 26, 2012
OC Human Relations Commission Funding Cut
The OC Human Relations Commission "Rusty Award"
Today I attended a meeting of the Orange County Board of Supervisors in Santa Ana. The topic of interest was their decision on the funding of the OC Human Relations Commission for July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013. The vote had been postponed from the previous week since Supervisor Pat Bates wanted to review the monies spent by OCHRC and determine if there was a problem with double-dipping. As things stood last week, the vote to continue funding at the current level of $302,000 a year was 2-2 with Bates asking for another week, which was granted.
Prior to the vote, public comments were open. I was the only person requesting to speak. I told the board that I had been informed that OCHRC CEO Rusty Kennedy was receiving a salary of $100,00 a year on top of his pension of $102,000 a year for his work in the same position going back to 1981. I added that I was not sure of this information or whether Mr Kennedy's salary was being paid from outside sources. I said that I was not saying this was illegal or even unethical, but if it was true, to continue funding at the current level would be a slap in the face of Orange County tax-payers.
Bates opened the discussion by saying that she had done a lot of work on this the past week and proposed a cut to $252,000 with an aim of phasing out public funding in the coming years in favor of private funding. She questioned whether this was part of the county's mission.
Supervisor Nelson, who had proposed a cut to $202,000, criticized the OCHRC for not being around or initially involved during the Kelly Thomas beating incident in Fullerton. He questioned the usefulness of the Interface program. Nelson stood by his iniitial proposal.
Supervisor Janet Nguyen continued to defend the OCHRC giving an example from last year when there was an incident in her district involving an insult in a public forum. She also defended Kennedy against the charge of double-dipping saying that last year, Kennedy's position was one of three eliminated and that he was forced into retirement. She asked Bates to compromise and keep the same level of funding this year coupled with a commitment to continue studying the option of phasing down the funding in the coming years. To that Bates declined saying that she had put a lot of work into her decision and felt it was a reasonable compromise as opposed to eliminating funding altogether with little prior notice.
Supervisor Bill Campbell, a supporter of OCHRC, also lauded what the organization did last year when a cross was burned on the lawn of a black family's house. He did agree to the compromise figure of $252,000, however.
So, by a vote of 4-1 (Nguyen dissenting), the cut to $252,000 was passed. The consensus is that in the coming years, consideration will be given to phasing out public funding so the OCHRC will have time to arrange for private funding.
Conclusion? Rusty Kennedy might want to consider smaller Rusty awards next year and beyond.