After a tense period marked by the resignation of most of its members, the firing of its executive director and a secret audit, the York City's Human Relations Commission is ready to get back to business.
Needless to say, it's about time.
The HRC is a board of volunteers that oversees a quasi-independent department charged with investigating allegations of discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, as well as monitoring and reporting hate crimes and other civil tensions in the city.
Yet for nearly a year, the commission was unable to perform those important duties.
It had fired executive director Stephanie Seaton and hired an attorney to produce a report auditing several years of commission casework – a report that still has not been made public.
Members had resigned in droves from the dysfunctional 11-person board until only four remained.
During this time, about a dozen open cases languished, and new cases have been referred to the state Human Relations Commission.
The drama dragged on so long, we wondered if it would make sense to disband the local commission and turn the responsibilities over to the state for good.
This week, however, a new investigator is getting to work, first resolving the open cases, then tackling new ones. The board is back to almost a full complement, with only one vacancy still to be filled.
"It's time," said acting chairwoman Karen Rollins-Fitch. "I think that the HRC is ready to pick up and move forward ..."
Hopefully, lessons have been learned and the current members won't repeat the mistakes of the past.
Hope is all the public really has, since only a few people know exactly what went wrong and they still refuse to say.
York City officials last year denied The York Dispatch's Right to Know request for a copy of the audit report.
It was produced by an outside attorney hired by the commission to investigate the accuracy of case reports and the status of all cases for the prior three years.
Obviously, there were issues.
And full airing of the attorney's findings might have gone a long way toward reassuring the public – "These are the problems we found, this is what we're doing to fix them, and here's how you'll know we're successful."
Unfortunately there was no such transparency.
The revived commission might want to rectify that if it hopes to regain the public's trust moving forward.