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Human Rights Commission considering dissolution

Human Rights Director Lionel Foster addresses the Mason City Human Rights Commission and Friends of the Commission on March 7th, 2013 at City Hall.
Human Rights Director Lionel Foster addresses the Mason City Human Rights Commission and Friends of the Commission on March 7th, 2013 at City Hall.

MASON CITY – The Mason City Human Rights Commission met Thursday for its regular monthly meeting and is considering dissolution as one of the only means of moving forward after a severe budget cut from the Mason City Council.

According to the discussion at Thursday’s meeting, a working agreement being considered with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission would strip the local commission of its fact-finding duties. Fact-finding is one of the main tasks that members of the commission perform.

The need for a working agreement with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is one of the only alternatives the Mason City Human Rights Commission has, as the allocated funding of $15,000 moving forward will not allow for a Human Rights Director and would not cover the costs of intake, investigation and writing of decisions regarding human rights violations claims.

See video for more on this discussion.

Moving forward, it appears that City Hall’s budget of $15,000 and leftover grant funds will pay for current Administrative Assistant Amy Simpson to continue to perform the job of taking claims for at least one year.  Lionel Foster will no longer be the Human Rights Director as of June 30th, 2013, ending decades of duty in that position.  Mr. Foster said at Thursday’s meeting he does not intend to retire.

According to discussion at the meeting, if a working agreement is ratified with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, it will pay $100 to the city for each human rights violation claim that is sent to Des Moines.  The Mason City Human Rights Commission would then cede all fact-finding powers to Des Moines and have virtually no authority left.  The commission noted it does not have the ability to write decisions after fact-finding.

According to information just received in our newsroom Friday morning from a Human Rights Commission in Council Bluffs, as a state bureaucracy, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission has been “lobbying local governments” to ratify agreements by saying “local agencies are not needed.”  The source goes on to say that “the ICRC has enough of its own workload with which to deal and is not capable of taking over all of our cases that the locals process, investigate, and resolve each year.

“Our Commission (in Council Bluffs) has not yet signed the 2013 (ICRC) Agreement, as we feel that it was changed unilaterally to the detriment of the local agencies and was strong-armed on the local agencies.”

At this time, there is new legislation at the statehouse in Des Moines being looked at that, if passed, would “give back some local control to our (local) agencies, rather than vest what appears to be almost total control in the ICRC,” according to the Council Bluffs source, who went on to call the chances of the new legislation passing “an uphill battle” after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Michael E. Gronstal.  “At least we have someone in Des Moines listening to and vowing to have his staff look into our concerns.”

The commission took no formal action on the agreement with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission at Thursday’s meeting, opting to wait until the next meeting to discuss further.

The commission also discussed the location of the Human Rights Office in City Hall.  It was said that “the Blue Zones people” are moving in next door and that the Human Rights Office space might be used for the Blue Zone project.  There have already been questions raised as to privacy of individuals involved in cases, with the Blue Zones personnel in such close proximity.  In addition, there are sensitive files held in the office at this time, and it was said that by law, the files must be kept for a number of years.

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what skills, degrees or knowledge or importance does mr. foster have that require his salary be over $50,000/yr.? (it’s my understanding his wage was more than that) what is the breakdown of expenses that says $150,000 is needed by hrc. i have yet to see proof that amt. is required to get the job of defending human rights in mc.

They should of got rid of HRC all together. We need jobs not them thats using Foster he is a trouble maker just ask them he has sued. We dont need none of them blood suckers uses HRC anyways. Let them move or make them move yes.

@Pee Wee-that away to stay classy.

Pee Wee, you sound like someone who has lived their entire life in the area with little to no experience anywhere else. You always say them this and them that. It sounds very hillbilly and uneducated.

You’re just a poor and dumb person mad at even dumber and poor people while I keep getting more than both of you by far.

mercy2 – the City already has in place the oversight of housing law enforcement including an appeals board. Using HRC for a landlord dispute is misdirecting the complainant. If HRC gets such a complaint it should hand this off to the appropriate office, not pursue on its own.

Exactly. The director of HUD in MC has reported in the GG that HUD already has the ability (lack of batter term) to settle landlord /tenant disputes.
@mercy2, it’s not HRC’s job to settle disputes. It purpose is to take and analyzes the complaint and should forward it to DesMoines office. It shouldn’t take $150,000 to do that. Council members association with any business has nothing to do with what HRC’s purpose/job is or deciding how much it costs for them to serve their purpose.
Mayor Bookmeyer was exercising his mayor right when he didn’t reappoint some of the members. Not liking his choice is a personal problem not a wrong doing by the mayor.
I’m not hiding anything. I’m an objective bystander dog in the fight. Which allows me to be more objective. I’m looking at the $ and “sense” of the matter.

anon – a minor correction: the director of HUD (a/k/a MCHA) does not settle landlord/tenant disputes related to the city’s housing ordinance. These are handled by the housing inspection personnel. If that decision does not satisfy they can appeal to a review board.

I didn’t say she does handle all landlord / tenant disputes. What I was saying (tho maybe I should have been more detailed) is that HUD can handle any complaints for people utilizing HUD. HRC is not needed to settle landlord / tenant disputes if it’s a HUD contract. I don’t know about the rest of the disputes. I just know it doesn’t need to take $150,000/yr.. for HRC to assist citizens.

Your newsroom reports that supposedly the HRC office in Council Bluffs asserts that the ICRC is “lobbying local governments” to ratify agreements by saying “local agencies are not needed.”
Further your source says ICRC is incapable of handling the workload and that the Council Bluffs HRC is resisting “strong arm tactics” being used to obtain agreement to the 2013 ICRC agreement, that it was changed to local HRC’s detriment.
Finally, you say some hope is being generated to return “local control” to HRC’s in legislation is at least listening to them even if it has an uphill battle.
Lest you all get too revved up on this “news”, please note that Gronstal represents Council Bluffs who, while majority leader in the senate, is decidedly lacking in the ability to accomplish more than blocking items he opposes. It appears to be spin about a lost cause.
For Mason City it is a matter of budgeting, not loss of “local control” – which I am fine with losing as long as we are eliminating spending duplicative tax dollars.

I think the arrow pointed wrong or my aim is off. 🙂 I realize you agree with the cut. My post was aimed at that other snarky fool Local Citizen. Your posts are always polite and to the point.

anon – I was trying to comment on NIT’s article & their alluding to some “strong arm” spin – all taking place in Gronstal’s backyard.

anon what you are not telling every one is that Mr hickey is employed by fedex who is just lost a an employment case investigated by the HRC. MARINOS HAS HAD PROBLEMS WITH THE ENFORCEMENT OF HOUSING LAWS BY THE HRC. If you look into the back grounds of all of council members you will find that they all have a conflict of interest and should not be voting on any issues involving the HRC. The difference between mason city’s HRC and some of the other HRCs is enforcement. They do not do enforcement that is why they only spend 15 thousand. It’s like having the MCPD write the crime complaints and send them to DesMoins PD.

I realize that. I was reponding to another reply you made to me. I put it below this post of yours so it wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.


March 10, 2013 at 11:30 am
anon – you misread my comment. I said Mason City taxpayers get to save $120,000 by not funding HRC and the service is still available thru the state.
This was an action that I support

I will not use anymore rude comments. I let my anger get the best of me. I really do love this town, but I just see too many bad decisions. I do not agree with what you say. I just do not see this working out in a positive way. Hopefully I am wrong.

Even our own police officers had to use Mr. Fosters office when Jack Schlieper was police chief.

Anon, change your name to moron. It suits you. You are a wart on the a** of society. It is people like you that eat this garbage that the council produces that makes me sick. You actually believe what they are saying. Do you want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge? I’ll sell it to you. Take the time to think before you spread this manure you call a thought.

Have a good day!!!!

LOL! Anyone like you who thinks spending the taxpayers money when cases can be handled FREE is the ignorant fool. So are you saying the state civil rights rep is lieing? Tell us again how that $140,000 was justified when it is NOT neccessary to spend that amt? I could use another laugh at a NIT wit asss’s attempt to look intelligent.

Anon, I AM for spending the taxpayer’s money wisely. You actually think that the reason for this cut was to balance the budget? You probably want them to spend the money on more “art” pieces for downtown. LOL!!! Keep spewing your idiotic rants on how everyone else is wrong and you are right!! What are your next great words of wisdom? Are you going to tell us that the world is flat? You tend to believe anything that this “council” says. With mindless robots like you in this area, I am sure that they will still have some kind of cheering section. In the mean time, the rest of us will be dealing with reality of watching this town slowly ease down the tubes of decay. I bet you work for Wall Street, right? Wait….I am wrong….that would require some form of intelligence.
Take care Jerky!!

What a huge failure on the part of the city.

Not at all. The city saved over $120,000 by not funding a service the state (us taxpayers again) already pays for.

anon – you misread my comment. I said Mason City taxpayers get to save $120,000 by not funding HRC and the service is still available thru the state.
This was an action that I support.

How do you figure? You should read the GG once in awhile you might learn something and the truth. The “city” just saved taxpayers over $100,000 and citizens with issues can still be served adequetly.

Keep guessing and insulting those who work at those jobs. Shows your inadequacy of self esteem and respect for people who work those jobs. All you got is a spelling error? Big crime. Better call grammar police.

The Commission was appointed by the Council. How can the Commission dissolve itself? They could all resign, but what purpose would that serve? I have a lot of respect for these folks but if they all resign then they are quitters. I expect a hell of a lot more from them. They need to stay and continue to fight for those who’s civil rights have been violated.

If City Hall doesn’t want them around then that is the perfect reason to stay.

Leaving due to a cut in funds just says they care more about money than human rights. You’d think if they really cared about the taxpaying citizens they would gladly volunteer for them. But I sumise those citizens bching about the cut to the HRC care more about money than lives and just have a personal agenda against the mayor.

“Mr. Foster said at Thursday’s meeting he does not intend to retire.”
What does he “intend” to do when the position is gone & he is no longer paid?

If it is your choice you can call it retirement. If it is not your choice you have been laid off, fired or downsized. Mr. Foster is old enough to draw his pension and Social Security. Perhaps he will just keep doing his job as a volunteer. He reports to his board, not the City Council. The board could probably okay that arrangement.

@Anonynous-if he calles it laid off or downsized he is eligible for unemployment and other benefits. I am sure Foster will get all that he can.

And who does the board report to? Certainly not just to themselves.

Looks like Beermiester ate to many chitling down thar in DC. Not from Mason- is his azz as big as his jowels ?

Slim balls in charge – buy more statues and qzzwipe – coprocephalic

Forgot to mention. That if the “city” gets sued it’s the taxpayers that are getting sued because it’s THEIR money that pays the HRC and the mayor and council (that voted on the “budget”) representing them. How many taxpayers do you think will be “against” the cut? sheeeeh. What have YOU been smokin?

The city better get ready for a discrimination lawsuite and he might just have a case.

LOL! How so? It’s been proven that HRC’s can operate on waaaaaay less than $150,000/yr. So how is a city that’s trying to save over $100,000/yr. being discriminatory? I’m waiting. I need a good laugh.

@anon-you can file a suite at any time against anyone you want and Foster is a expert on how that is done. He has spent his whole life in that kind of environment. Now what are you smoking brain dead? Idiots like you should be banned from commenting on here.

Really? On what grounds? Making you think with the muscle between your shoulders instead of the teeny tiney dead one between your legs.?

@anon-how would you know what is between my legs. Have you been down there sucking around again.

Your posts are a dead giveaway.

Anon, please list the places where this has been successful. If you have proof, I would love to see it.

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