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October 21, 2013

New Albany Human Rights forum slated for Friday

Officials hopeful to inform public of process

NEW ALBANY — The public will have a chance this week to learn more about the issues and concerns the New Albany Humans Rights Commission was established to address.

The commission will host an open house from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at the Carnegie Center for Art and History. The purpose will be to inform the public about the commission, which was formed last year but has yet to hear a case.

“What we’re looking for is for everyone to learn the filing process and learn who we are and where we come from,” said Brad Bell, one of the five members of the commission.

The commission notified several groups and organizations about the public hearing via e-mail, and Bell is hopeful that Friday’s meeting will garner several attendees.

“More or less we want to reach out to everybody — from community members to leaders to whoever else,” Bell said.

The New Albany City Council updated its discrimination laws last year to coincide with the commission, which had been active up until the early 1980s before going dormant. Discrimination based on race, religion and sexual orientation in the sectors of education, housing and employment are protected under the city ordinances.  However the scope of the commission’s enforcement ability is unclear, as they have yet to hear a case or had a ruling challenged at a court level.

Not to be confused with the human rights board, the council also formed a New Albany Ethics Commission last year which is charged with overseeing complaints regarding public employees or contracts.  Like the human rights commission, the ethics commission has yet to hear a case.

Earlier this year, some human rights commission members said they would like for the body to be more proactive in addressing issues.

Bell said Friday’s forum should help spread the word about the types of discrimination the commission was established to protect residents from, as well as to clear up any confusion about the body’s policies and process.

No reservations are required to attend the meeting. The Carnegie Center is located at 201 E. Spring St.

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