LULAC Files Additional Complaints : Rights: Activist group says county health and transportation agencies have excluded Latinos and other minorities from planning and administrative posts.


The League of United Latin American Citizens, which has previously asked federal civil rights officials to review the "fairness" of the county's grand jury system, on Wednesday lodged new complaints of violations by county health and transportation agencies.

The complaints, alleging that Latinos and other minorities have been excluded from planning and administration posts, as well as other jobs, were added to a 22-count complaint filed by the Latino rights group July 15 with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

At a news conference Wednesday, LULAC representatives alleged that Latinos are not adequately represented on the newly formed OPTIMA board of directors, which was created by county government to convert the county's Medi-Cal program to a "managed care" system.

LULAC also complained that Latinos have been excluded from participation in the ongoing process of determining how the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station will be converted to civilian use.

The group also charged that the Orange County Transportation Authority's board of directors and management staff lack ethnic diversity and that the agency's "procurement opportunities" for Latinos are meager.

"We want to participate," said Zeke Hernandez, former state director of LULAC and a member of the group that signed Wednesday's complaint. "We want to fulfill our responsibility. We should be part of the solution."

There are no Latinos on OPTIMA's board, and there is one Latino on OCTA's board. The membership of the county's proposed 19-member advisory committee on El Toro's conversion has not been decided.

Orange County Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez, one of two supervisors heading the county's El Toro conversion study, said Latinos have not been excluded from the planning of El Toro's future.

"It bothers me that people rush to judgment before the process is even put in place," Vasquez said, adding that there will be numerous opportunities for Latinos and others to join advisory committees making recommendations on the development of the base.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Harriett M. Wieder, a prime backer of the OPTIMA experiment, said Latinos "had the opportunity to participate and they were not at the table. It's a two-way road. They just have not been visible and now they are making themselves visible, and I commend them."

No hearing date on LULAC's July complaint has been set, but Philip Montez, western regional director of the Civil Rights Commission, said the matter is under investigation.

The complaint included the accusation that Orange County minorities are denied equal justice, and questioned the fairness of the grand jury system after that panel released a report blaming illegal immigration for a wide variety of social ills.

Dr. Robert Beltran, a Latino physician who joined LULAC representatives at Wednesday's news conference, said that of the 128 people who applied for positions on the OPTIMA board of directors and its advisory committees, only three were Latino.

Beltran said that he and 15 other Latinos interested in serving on OPTIMA's board were not contacted, even though Beltran delivered a list of the names to Vasquez's office.

Vasquez said his office forwarded the names of interested persons to the county's Health Care Agency, which mailed applications and information packets "to a number of the (Latino) doctors, and none had responded."

"I think there's always room for more people to participate in the process," Vasquez said. He noted that the county is no longer involved with OPTIMA, which now is a separate, nonprofit agency whose directors can choose to expand their governing board.

LULAC also alleged that the OCTA board of directors needs "ethnic diversity and public representation," and that the transit agency's management staffing lacks diversity.

OCTA spokeswoman Elaine Beno said that only one of the agency's 10 board members is Latino. The makeup of the board is dictated by state law, she said. It includes four county supervisors, city council members from four cities, a Caltrans representative and one public member selected by the board.

OCTA sent 10,000 letters this year to people who had expressed interest in transportation, resulting in 68 applications for the public-member directorship, she said. Beno did not know how many of the people contacted by letter, or how many of the applicants, were Latino.

However, 11% of OCTA's managers are Latino, Beno said, adding that the agency "recently hired a manager of employment and diversity, which is a new position."

Beno said that, in 1991-92, 19.6% of the agency's outside contracts went to firms headed by Latinos, a figure that exceeded a federal goal.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World