York mayor on HRC: It's time to step in

It's hard to say exactly what is going on with the York City Human Relations Commission.

That's not because we can't get a straight answer.

These days we can't get any answer.

A dozen people waited nearly an hour Monday for the start of a commission meeting that had been confirmed as recently as last week. Not one of the commissioners bothered to show up or notify the public the meeting had been canceled.

Contacted later Monday night, commission treasurer Ralph Serpe declined to comment and referred questions to York City Mayor Kim Bracey. On Tuesday morning, the mayor's assistant directed a reporter back to commission members.

The incident is the latest in a string that's increasingly looking like the slow disintegration of a quasi-independent agency that has been investigating complaints of discrimination for nearly 40 years.

The commission has had a tense relationship with the mayor and her administration going back several years.

In 2010, Bracey first suggested downsizing the 11-member volunteer commission, then later brought up the idea of disbanding it altogether.

The commission placed executive director Stephanie Seaton on paid administrative leave late last year and hired a local attorney to conduct an independent audit of casework dating back three years. The results of that audit are due any day now.

The commission itself is literally nearly half the body it once was. Although the city ordinance authorizes 11 members, it's now down to six after a slew of resignations last year, including that of chairwoman Dolores Abreu.

It's up to Bracey to appoint replacements, yet no new members have joined the commission.

Now that the remaining members are skipping meetings, perhaps it's time for the administration, city council and the local community to decide if they even want a commission.

If not, it should be disbanded in an orderly fashion, after which the state Human Relations Commission could investigate allegations of discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in the city.

But if a city-based Human Relations Commission is something of value, everyone involved needs to get together and figure out what went wrong -- because something obviously did.

Maybe the city council needs to start from scratch with a new ordinance authorizing a leaner commission more accountable for the way it spends city tax dollars, which would address one of Bracey's concerns.

Either way, someone needs to step forward and lead -- either to the nearest exit or to a new chapter for the commission.