Based on a publicly funded report only they have seen, five volunteers voted unanimously Monday to fire the head of a quasi-independent York City department charged with enforcing the city's anti-discrimination ordinance.
Stephanie Seaton is no longer the executive director of the city's Human Relations Commission.
But this may not be the end of a story that began Nov. 19, when the commission's supervisory board voted to place Seaton on paid administrative leave. Citing a lack of confidence in the accuracy of Seaton's monthly reports, they later hired attorney Sean Summers to audit the commission's casework.
Commissioners apparently used the findings in that report to justify firing Seaton, a 12-year employee of the city who, she said, was never reprimanded. Citing personnel issues and a privacy law, the commission did not release the report to the public.
They also did not discuss the findings in public, though commissioners Ralph Serpe and Victor Brown mentioned recent meetings held behind closed doors.
After the meeting, Seaton said she intends to file a discrimination complaint of her own.
"I have nothing to hide because the work I have done stands for itself," she told the commissioners before walking out of the meeting. "I say shame on all of you. If you had an issue with me, you should have met with me."
About two dozen people - including each of the York City Council's five members - attended Monday's meeting, and several stepped to the podium to express concerns.
Leo Cooper, a past president of the York NAACP, said his organization has had a strong relationship with the HRC. He said it's not uncommon for cases to take years to resolve, and he expressed doubt that the commissioners understand the process of investigating and resolving discrimination complaints.
"You're putting it under the guise of a personnel matter," Cooper said. "No, it's a personal matter."
Seaton's attorney, Clemon A. Hammie, called Monday's vote "a travesty of justice."
He said his client had far too little time to respond to the report's findings.
Seaton said she received a letter from the city Friday advising her of potential "disciplinary action." The letter said she had until 3 p.m. Monday to submit a written response.
"Is that an opportunity to be heard?" Hammie said.
Councilman David Satterlee said he voted last year to boost funding to the HRC and support the audit "so that we could know the truth."
Satterlee said he believes the HRC will not be able to return to functionality if the report is not made public.
After the meeting, Serpe, who is acting as the HRC's chairman, said the commission intends to release a version of the report "in a way that protects the commission and protects the employee."
"We're going to start working on that as soon as possible," he said.
Melissa Melewsky, an attorney with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said it is the government's responsibility to redact parts of a document that are not public - like an employee's Social Security number, Melewsky said.
She cited a section of the state's Right to Know Law that states, "A record which is not otherwise exempt from access under this act and which is presented to a quorum for deliberation ... shall be a public record."
"There may be parts of this that aren't public," she said. "But I think the report as a whole ... is a presumptively public record."- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.