Another member of the York City Human Relations Commission has resigned.
Ralph Serpe, who's served as acting chairman since the previous chairwoman resigned in December, said Sunday that he resigned Friday after two years as a volunteer commissioner.
It's no coincidence, Serpe said, that his decision to resign follows the York City Council's decision last month to reject Mayor Kim Bracey's re-appointment of two other commissioners, Phyllis Dowling and Victor Brown.
"I'm leaving so the focus is on providing the resources that the commission needs for 2014. I'm not leaving because the work is done," Serpe said. "I'm leaving because city council has expressed a desire to support the commission with new commissioners."
Serpe, Dowling and Brown have served on the commission during a particularly tumultuous time in its history.
Earlier this year, the commission fired its executive director and paid an attorney to produce a report auditing several years of commission casework. The report has not been released to the public.
The commission, which is authorized to operate with 11 members, has steadily lost volunteers during that time.
Members of the council and the public have criticized the commission's commitment to transparency and due process for Stephanie Seaton, the fired executive director.
During the council's Aug. 20 meeting, Councilman Michael Helfrich expressed a desire for "fresh blood."
Serpe said he is concerned that his continued service on the commission could compromise the council's decision to fund the HRC next year.
"It is clear that in order to get that budget approved that commissioners who were on the commission earlier this year, city council may not want them to be there. I'm hearing that city council wants new blood, and now they have the opportunity of new blood," Serpe said. "It's clear that in order for the HRC to move forward, to continue to move forward, it needs the full support of city council."
The HRC is a board of volunteers that oversees a quasi-independent department charged with investigating allegations of discrimination in the city. Resignations have reduced the commission's membership to five. That includes Dowling, who, according to Serpe, is both willing and eligible to serve until her replacement is named.
Also at its Aug. 20 meeting, the council appointed three new commissioners - Karen Rollins-Fitch, Lynn Faircloth and Cheril Chronister. The council will consider the appointment of Stanley Sexton, a former HRC chairman, on Tuesday.
Serpe said he'll continue to volunteer in other capacities and will remain engaged on HRC issues.
"Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right, and sometimes that's not very popular. And when that happens individuals can become a target for others. But that should never stop us from doing what's right and volunteering and being a part of York City," he said.
- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.