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City OKs Panel on Human Relations

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The San Diego City Council on Monday tentatively approved creation of a Human Relations Commission that would target racial, ethnic and religious discrimination, but without the subpoena power that its sponsors originally proposed.

Limited by a legal opinion that concluded that the City Charter does not allow the council to give an advisory board the power of subpoena, the council voted 8 to 1 to create the commission, with the intention of attempting to strengthen its authority later. Councilman Bruce Henderson’s was the only dissenting vote.

The ordinance creating the panel will take effect 30 days after a second, and usually automatic, vote, which is scheduled for March 11. Backers also must win funding for the panel, estimated at $175,000 to $200,000, in the city’s tight fiscal 1992 budget.

Councilman Wes Pratt, a prime sponsor, said he would favor asking voters in 1992 for a charter change that would give the commission subpoena power on a case-by-case basis.

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“I think subpoena power will be needed,” Pratt said after the vote. “Subpoena power . . . enhances the ability of the commission to function in egregious cases” with uncooperative subjects.

In addition to investigating individual claims of discrimination, the 15-member commission would have the power to mediate and conciliate disagreements between individuals and groups, conduct public education to promote understanding and hold public hearings on community problems causing discrimination and racial tension.

It would not duplicate the efforts of the city attorney or district attorney’s offices, which investigate misdemeanor and felony crimes, respectively, but could be a place where specific complaints of non-criminal harassment and abuse could be brought for investigation.

Henderson voted against the commission after complaining that the ordinance does not clearly spell out the right of a someone accused of discrimination to be notified that he or she is the subject of an inquiry by the commission.


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