Independent
Aberdeen Hazlet Holmdel Keyport Matawan - Middletown
January 23, 2008 

Letters

Ex-Human Rights chair charges retaliation
Iwould like to clarify some misconceptions from the Jan. 6 Middletown Township reorganization meeting at which I was not reappointed to the Middletown Human Rights Commission after 17 successful years, the last three as chairperson.

At the Township Committee meeting, by using an unfortunate acronym, I meant "majority, non minority" people. I immediately replaced it with "Caucasian females." No aspersion was intended; I am in the same class. Rather, the commission was frustrated that the mayors had ignored our multiple requests for diverse members, e.g., older, younger, different races. We had only one male member when the mayor added five females. There are four openings at present, since the Township Committee has not staffed it to its full complement of 11 members.

A local letter writer has expressed a view of the Human Rights Commission that is exactly the opposite of its mission, which is to represent the diverse members of our township. Rather than ignoring diversity of appointments, we are to prevent discrimination against all the protected classes under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

It is imperative to have diverse representation. The official guidelines for the Middletown Human Rights Commission, which was formed 40 years ago, state, "The Human Rights Commission is a body of citizens broadly representative of the religious, racial, ethnic, business, labor and public media groups in the township"

Our bylaws state, "It is the mission of the Human Rights Commission, a body of citizens broadly representative of the diverse groups of our township."

The mayor and attorney stated that they did not reappoint me because my ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] lawsuit was not settled, but the case has been settled. It is odd that while the lawsuit was finally filed in June 2004, only after 17 years of working in the system trying to get the town to provide legal access, they reappointed me that December, but not now, after the lawsuit was over. Actually, the lawsuit was settled in February 2006. But since the township ignored that federal settlement, another consent order had to be accomplished in August 2007 to enforce the earlier one.

The answer about why I was not reappointed, finally given at the Jan. 6 meeting, disclosed that they were apparently retaliating against me as a "whistle blower."

As the township attorney well knows, it is illegal to retaliate against a person for bringing a complaint or lawsuit. It is clearly irrelevant whether or not it is settled. Here is the text from the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): Sec. 12203. Prohibition against retaliation and coercion

"(a) Retaliation: No person shall discriminate against any individual because such individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by this chapter or because such individual made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this chapter."

Contrary to the perception of some, we did not file the civil rights lawsuit to "get rich." It was filed so that I and all of our residents would have safe, legal access to township facilities. Any financial penalties paid will be due solely to failure of the township to meet the stated deadlines; it is already liable for four failures to comply.

If anyone would like information about the ADA, the Human Rights Commission, our ADA lawsuit, the access report, or the audio of the January meeting comments, or accessibility problems in Middletown, I'd be happy to provide the references. My email is cs@equalizers.org.

Carolyn Schwebel

Middletown