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Chatham human relations panel resigns in protest

Posted July 19, 2011
Updated July 20, 2011

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— All eight members of the Chatham County Human Relations Commission resigned Tuesday to protest moves by the county Board of Commissioners that they see as undercutting their work.

Commissioners in January eliminated the full-time employee who managed the Human Relations Commission's efforts as part of budget cuts. Last month, the board reversed its stance toward an immigration enforcement program known as 287(G).

"We refuse to participate in an ineffectual commission and perpetuate the myth that this Board (of Commissioners) cares about the welfare of minorities," Norman Clark, former chairman of the Human Relations Commission, said in a statement.

Brian Bock, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday that he was surprised by the move.

"The vision (for local race relations) hasn't changed from the last board to this board," Bock said.

Clark said the human relations budget represented 0.1 percent of Chatham County's annual budget, and the county could have spared the office in its cuts.

"A volunteer commission does not possess the resources, time, know-how or authority to address residents' discrimination complaints," he said. "The (commission's) goals cannot be meaningfully accomplished without support from the county and a dedicated and knowledgeable staff person."

Bock said the director's salary was $80,000 a year. "By the time you put in benefits, you are speaking about $100,000 for one advisory committee," he said.

The county has one of the fastest-growing Hispanic populations in the state. The number of Hispanics in the county has increased about 20-fold in the past two decades, and the group now accounts for about 13 percent of the local population.

Black people account for another 13 percent of the county population, and close to half of the students in the Chatham County Schools system are minority.

The county created the Human Relations Commission in 2000 to deal with growing population diversity. It was among 13 North Carolina cities and counties that had a paid staff person to deal with equality issues.

"We were trying to bring the whole county together," Clark told WRAL News.

Tensions increased when the Board of Commissioners rescinded a resolution passed by the previous board that said county law enforcement wouldn't work with a federal program that could eventually deport illegal immigrants. The Human Relations Commission had recommended the initial resolution.

"With the direction of the new board, we didn't feel it would be in our best interest to take steps backwards," Clark said.

Commissioners will start searching for 12 new Human Relations Commission members, Bock said. Four of the panel's seats had been vacant before Tuesday.

31 Comments

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  • Rebelyell55 Jul 20, 2011

    There is a lot of happy people in Chatham county now. No one is going to miss those board members. As for the person who was getting 80,000 a year, Wow, that was wrong right there.

  • mfarmer1 Jul 20, 2011

    Fausto Palma-Guifarro For Chatham County Human Relations Commission.

  • wildcat Jul 20, 2011

    SHAME OF THESE 8 COMMISSIONERS FOR WALKING AWAY. YOU HAVE DISAPPOINTED CHATHAM COUNTY RESIDENTS WHO VOTED TO PUT YOU THERE!!!!

  • wildcat Jul 20, 2011

    WILL THEY BE LOWERING OUR TAXES BECAUSE OF THE EIGHT COMMISSIONERS LEAVING?

  • wildcat Jul 20, 2011

    WILL THE COMMISSIONERS THAT LEFT BE ALLOWED TO RETURN BACK AS IF NOTHING HAPPEN?

  • wildcat Jul 20, 2011

    Last month, the board reversed a 2-year-old policy of not participating in an immigration enforcement program known as 287(G).

    WHY DON'T THE ILLEGALS TAKE THE OATH AND BECOME "LEGAL CITIZENS". THAT WOULD BE THE BEST MOVE EVER AND WOULD SOLVE MANY PROBLEMS OF ILLEGAL. GETTING THEM TO DO JUST THAT WOULD TAKE A LOT OF WORK. BUT ITS A START.

  • wildcat Jul 20, 2011

    All eight members of the Chatham County Human Relations Commission resigned Tuesday to protest moves by the county Board of Commissioners that they see as undercutting their work.

    SO CHATHAM COUNTY DON'T HAVE COMMISSIONERS AT THIS POINT? KNOW WHO TO REALLY VOTE ON THE NEXT TIME. WE DON'T NEED WEAKLINGS.

  • bajarat Jul 19, 2011

    If this "human relations" nest of Marxist beard scratchers was opposed to deporting wretched illegal aliens who have committed additional crimes then good riddance to the scumbags. Illegals need to be deported BEFORE they victimize Americans. Sheesh!

  • Whatthehey Jul 19, 2011

    The "new minority." With a "20-fold increase in Hispanic population in two decades," the county needs qualified staff to avoid problems and costly lawsuits. In November 2010 Wake County had this interesting headline regarding school population demographics:
    "For the first time, minority students account for a majority of the students in the Wake County school system. Numbers released today show that white students now account for 49.5 percent of the school district’s 143,289 students, a drop from 51.1 percent of Wake’s enrollment the previous year. The percent of minority students in NC's largest system has steadily increased as has the percentage of students receiving federally subsidized lunches increased. This school year, 32.4 percent of students are receiving subsidized lunches up from 26.3 in 2004."

    Bad economy, major societal changes, government that can't get anything done, citizens arguing which Party to blame, ignoring fat cat CEO's & corporations sending jobs away.

  • affirmativediversity Jul 19, 2011

    Many of the old-timers in Chatham Countydon't want anything that threatens born-there white male rule. Persons of color, females, immigrants legal or not, "not from here's" are all under suspicion. I hear the locals talk. per froggygirl

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    There are 2 women on the Board of Commissioners and minorities are well represented within management...as for immigrants (legal or not...really legal or not? just so you know if a person entered the US legally then they are an "immigrant" but if they entered illegally for purposes other than a vacation then they are, at best, an UNDOCUMENTED ALIEN or CRIMINAL MIGRANT) how do you know who is an immigrant and who was born in the USA?

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