Concerned About Reasons for Not Reappointing Schwebel
Written by Earl Thomas Teasley
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
As chairperson of the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission (MCHRC), I am amazingly shocked and disconcerted that Commissioner Carolyn Schwebel has not yet been reappointed to the Middletown Human Rights Commission. At the January 6 meeting, the mayor stated that Commissioner Schwebel was not reappointed due to her "litigation against the township that isn't settled." Although somewhat irrelevant, this litigation was indeed settled on August 1, 2007. I am particularly distressed that it appears most clearly that Commissioner Schwebel’s non-reappointment is retaliatory for her longstanding activities involving advocacy for access and compliance with ADA guidelines. As Chair of the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, formed by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1990 to combat the causes of bias and discrimination that result in acts of violence, vandalism, and violations of civil rights, I am concerned about the actions and reasons that have surrounded Commissioner Schwebel’s non-reappointment, as they ostensibly represent violations of Commissioner Schwebel’s rights.
What is further disturbing is that anyone would find Commissioner Schwebel’s activities as an advocate troubling. As chair of the Middletown Human Rights Commission, all of Commissioner Schwebel’s actions and requests for information have been consistent with the Middletown Township resolution forming the HRC in 1968, the guidelines for the Middletown Township Human Rights Commission, and the Middletown Township Human Rights Commission bylaws. The denial of access is truly a form hate and bias, and those who bring access issues to our attention to the forefront of our consciousness should not be punished but applauded. One of my favorite adopted principles that I like to quote comes from Mahatma Gandhi who said, “Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” I would think that a most effective and transparent committee, charged with service to its citizens would certainly welcome concerns raised by a diligent and responsible Human Rights Commission or even a concerned individual for that matter. The ADA is certainly clear about guidelines for access, and it is incumbent upon township officials to be leaders in ADA compliance. After all, compliance is the law!
Finally, it is important to note that the Middletown Human Rights Commission has been a model to other human relations and human rights commissions throughout the county. Until now, the MCHRC has not played a big role in issues of inequities in Middletown. The nonpartisan, participatory nature of the Middletown HRC has truly been on par with its founding principles and guidelines. Indeed, as chair of the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, I urge the Middletown Township Committee to reset the wheels of justice, put them in forward gear, instead of backwards drive, and reappoint Carolyn Schwebel to the Middletown Human Rights Commission. Commissioner Schwebel, as many know, has been quite an able and capable leader, and retaliation against her is an affront to all for whom she advocates and other supporting citizens, and such retaliation only opens the door for many others—in and outside Middletown, the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission included, to advocate on behalf of the victims of injustice and inequity in Middletown. I have hope that the Middletown Township Committee exercises sound judgment in fixing this less than just situation by returning Carolyn Schwebel to the Middletown Human Rights Commission.
Earl Thomas Teasley, Chair,
Monmouth County Human Relations Commission