When it comes to the Human Relations Commission, York City Mayor Kim Bracey said she's looking toward the future instead of dwelling on the past.

Bracey said she intends to fund the embattled commission next year, though the details have yet to be worked out.

"Once we have the commission in place, I intend to fully empower them to have the tools necessary to create the staffing that they need," she said this week. "The time might be right for a strategic plan. I don't know. But first we need to get a fully staffed group of volunteers."

Funding levels are also at the discretion of the York City Council, which voiced its displeasure with the commission last month with a 3-1 vote not to reappoint two of its members, Phyllis Dowling and Victor Brown.

Controversy began in November, when the commission placed executive director Stephanie Seaton on paid administrative leave and voted to hire an outside attorney to conduct an investigation of the accuracy of case reports and the status of all cases dating back three years.

Apparently using the findings in that report, the commission fired Seaton on March 18. Citing personnel issues and a privacy law, the commission has not released the report to the public.

With Seaton's firing and the audit report behind them, remaining commissioners have been focused on restoring the HRC to a full complement of 11 members, as authorized by the ordinance. The HRC has been operating with only five members for months.


According to the ordinance, it's the mayor's job to recommend prospective commissioners to the council. Bracey had backed Dowling and Brown as worthy of reappointment, a recommendation the council considered but rejected Aug. 20.

"Water under the bridge,"

Bracey said.

The mayor called the outcome another "hiccup" of communication between the council and the administration.

Bracey said she would have liked to know about council members' objections ahead of time.

"It's kind of sad that they took that approach without even talking with anyone. But that is their prerogative," she said.

Bracey said she's arranged for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to host a training for York's commissioners in October "to make sure we have a commission that is viable, understanding their mission and their charge is for the betterment of this community."

"This is an opportunity for us all to be on the same page," she said.

The Human Relations Commission is a civil rights organization takes discrimination complaints related to employment, housing and public accommodations.

It was also formed to monitor bias situations and hate crimes that cause tension in the community, and to educate the community about civil rights issues, according to the commission's website.

-- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.