Human rights commission plan revived

EVERETT — Supporters of creating a human rights commission in Snohomish County said a new proposal released last week could help move their cause forward, after it has languished for more than a year.

Councilman Dave Gossett released a revised blueprint for the commission on Tuesday. It seeks to smooth over legal and cost concerns about the original draft from the Snohomish County Citizens Committee on Human Rights, the group pushing for a local commission.

Though still upset about how long the process has taken, committee members applauded movement on the commission idea.

“We’re happy to see that something is finally going to take place, and we’re looking forward to working on it,” said Luis Moscoso, a leader with the group.

But, he added, “this has been an onerous and confusing process.”

A special meeting about the proposal is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to noon July 14. Gossett said county attorneys would be available for questions.

“We’ll let people in the audience comment if they want to,” Gossett said.

The upcoming meeting is informal. The council needs to conduct a public hearing before it can vote on the issue.

A big hurdle to creating the commission could be the cost. The initial proposal carried a $400,000 price tag, something that would be hard for local leaders to support in a year when the county has shed nearly 240 budgeted jobs.

To save money, the human rights committee suggested phasing in the commission on a set schedule. Instead, Gossett wants the County Council to vote on a separate ordinance when it is ready to hire staff members for the commission.

Other, more technical changes would bring the proposed ordinance in line with state laws and the county charter.

The end result would be a body similar to the state’s Human Rights Commission. King County, Seattle and Tacoma have their own local versions.

The proposed Snohomish County commission would investigate discrimination complaints in specific areas, such as jobs, housing and access to public services. Bias complaints could involve a disability, age, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. All people — not just minority groups — are part of a protected class.

Seven appointed commissioners would be named by council members, the sheriff and the county executive. They would investigate complaints and try to get the parties to reach a mutual agreement. If that doesn’t work, the commission could refer the case to an administrative law judge or a county hearing examiner.

The judge or the examiner would determine whether the complaint is valid. They could take action such as ordering a business to re-hire a worker, or tell a landlord to rent to a tenant. Compensation could be ordered for the person who filed the complaint. A $100 fine also could be levied per violation.

Another role for the commission would be raising public awareness about discrimination.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,

Public meeting

A special meeting on a proposed human rights commission for Snohomish County is scheduled for 10:30 to noon July 14 in the county administration building east, eighth floor, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett. Residents will have the chance to discuss recent changes to a draft ordinance to create the commission.

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