Human Rights Commission voices frustration over sanctuary ordinance implementation

Group will handle all complaints and enforcement

Humboldt County Human Rights Commissioners, from left, Erin Rowe, James Glover and Bryd Lochtie will form an ad hoc committee to look at implementing the new sanctuary ordinance. (Ruth Schneider — The Times-Standard)

The Humboldt County Human Rights Commission voiced frustration Thursday evening about the implementation of the sanctuary ordinance, which was approved by voters in November and officially took effect in the county Dec. 21.

“Every commission, every department in the county that is affected by the ordinance is receiving these,” said James Glover, 1st District commissioner and commission chair, of the forms all county workers are asked to sign acknowledging they have “read and understand” the sanctuary ordinance. The forms are being collected by the county administrative office.

As part of the implementation, the commission is tasked with enforcement of the ordinance as well as the handling of complaints.

But at least one member of the commission stated that at the present time, they will not complete and submit the acknowledgment form.

“This is the biggest mess I have ever seen,” said 5th District Commissioner Erin Rowe, who is a Trinidad-based attorney.

“I won’t be signing it,” she later added.

“Do you get kicked off the commission if you don’t sign?” asked 2nd District Commissioner Larry Miller rhetorically.

“It makes us liable for something we don’t understand,” added 5th District Commissioner David Heise.

Not signing the acknowledgment form, apparently, is not uncommon.

“There have been a number of county employees who won’t sign,” Glover said, and as chair he reiterated to commission members that it was up to each member to personally decide whether to sign the form or not.

Glover noted that as of Thursday no complaints have been lodged over the sanctuary ordinance.

“It’s a real possibility we won’t get any complaints,” said Glover. “We just don’t know yet.”

The commission elected to create an ad hoc committee comprised of Glover, Rowe and 1st District Commissioner Byrd Lochtie to look at how to implement an ordinance that few understood well. No official vote was taken on the creation of the ad hoc committee.

Later a committee will be formed to ensure compliance and handle complaints.

The sanctuary ordinance briefly outlines how the commission will handle complaints.

“The (Human Rights) Commission will inform the agency being complained of and shall allow for comments and materials from all parties named in the complaint,” the ordinance states. “A written report with the Commission’s findings shall be submitted to the Board of Supervisors within sixty (60) days after the first meeting following the submission of a complaint.”

Members of the commission noted that because the commission only meets once each month for roughly two hours, this could make meeting the deadlines more difficult. Third District Commissioner Philip Anzada repeatedly pushed for a discussion of additional days to meet to handle the additional duties, but no consensus could be reached on availability and scheduling.

“The ordinance says we have to do it,” said Lochtie. “We should insist they give us resources to do what we have to do.”

Other business

Loren Collins of Humboldt State University’s Center for Community Based Learning spoke to the commission about potentially working with student interns on projects.

He said the issues the commission discusses have a significant amount of crossover with issues of interest for HSU students.

“We have a ton of students right now who are interested in homelessness issues,” he said.

Third District Commissioner Brandie Wilson said interns could be invaluable and hoped to work with an intern on a data-driven project involving the issues of hate speech and bullying.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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