The Stafford County Government is one step closer to creating a new advisory board that would focus on discrimination and human rights violations.
A charter for the new group states the advisory board would provide recommendations to the Stafford Board of Supervisors about how to better deliver government services to the county minority community, as well as suggest community events that would work to “celebrate diversity, and inclusion, and equity county-wide.”
A committee of three Stafford Board of Supervisors members has urged for the creation of a new Stafford County Diversity Advisory Coalition. The new advisory board could be approved at the Sept. 1 Board of Supervisors meeting.
In addition to hosting community events, the advisory could also choose to work with with regulators in Richmond and in Washington, D.C., in Richmond and in Washington, D.C. where records on discrimination complaints are field, searching for and tabulating the number of complaints that are alleged to have occurred in Stafford County.
“Right now, we don’t have that information,” said Stafford County Administrator Fred Presley, who explained anyone who has had their basic human rights violated would need to report it to regulators in offices outside of the county.
Since the onset of the Black Lives Matter protests and riots in May, residents have pushed the Board of Supervisor to create an independent panel that would review instances of discrimination in the county. As it stands, county leaders do not have a count of the number of alleged human rights violations in the county, which could range from a restaurant denying service to a customer to a transgender person being denied their right to use a bathroom of their choosing.
“Look at what’s going on in the world right now,” said Gary Holland, of Stafford, one of the residents pushing for the creation of the independent panel. “We need to get the data so we can make a plan about how to address the problem of discrimination.”
Stafford leaders on Monday, August 3 invited Raul Torres, the director of human rights from neighboring Prince William County, to speak about how it created a human rights commission 30 years ago. In the past year, his department has investigated 46 cases of alleged discrimination in Prince William County.
If someone is found to have violated a resident’s civil rights, the nine-member commission may agree to seek damages for the victim may include monetary payments, back pay, preventing businesses from doing business with the county government, said Torres.
The commission is made of nine volunteer members who are appointed by members of the Board of County Supervisors. Torres serves as a staff liaison to the commission and oversees a staff of six that includes two investigators.
Stafford’s advisory board would be set up in a similar manner, with supervisors each making appointing up to seven members to the board who would serve for two years. Should the county wish to hire a director of human rights at a later date, similar to Prince William, Presley estimates it would cost between $300,000 and $500,000 to create the office.
In addition to identifying the number of discrimination complaints, the advisory board would also play a role in community education, to include hosting seminars that teach youth how to work with police officers, said Rockhill District Supervisor Crystal Vanuch.
About 10 people attended Monday’s night’s committee meeting in person while 150 more people watched online from home.