York City human relations commission in limbo

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

The York City Human Relations Commission has its office packed into boxes, ready to make the move to West York, but until officials work out the legal details, its staff will have to work out of a conference room in city hall.

Carla Christopher, of York City, thanks the council members for their efforts while speaking about the York City Human Relations Commission finding a new home in West York Borough during the public comment segment of the West York Borough Council meeting in West York, Monday, April 3, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

More than two months after a potential partnership was first announced, York City and West York officials have hit a speed bump in the details of the commission's move.

The York City Human Relations Commission is authorized, under the city's anti-discrimination ordinance, to investigate city residents' claims of employment, educational and housing discrimination. The commission also assists noncity residents with filing discrimination complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

York City human relations group moving to West York

York City solicitor Jason Sabol said Thursday that the commission can likely begin moving its belongings into the borough building in the coming weeks, but it must continue to operate out of the conference room in York City Hall until the agreement is worked out.

Affiliation agreement: That’s because the two municipalities have not been able to hash out details about how the intergovernmental cooperation effort will work, Sabol said. 

“It’s certainly a struggle” for the commission, Sabol said, noting that staff members are trying to complete their work without access to most of their supplies.

A few hours before the York City Council met Tuesday night, Sabol said he received a copy of the resolution of affiliation the West York Borough Council passed, which included the lease agreement and language about the types of services the borough would like the commission to offer its residents.

It was too late to add the affiliation agreement and the borough’s statement of intent to the agenda for the city council to address them, so the council will revisit those documents at its next meeting on July 18, Sabol said.

York City, West York working to finalize HRC move

However, there is some disagreement among officials over what constitutes an affiliation agreement.

Sabol said it’s his understanding that the West York Borough Council does not have to approve an anti-discrimination ordinance as part of the affiliation agreement required for the commission to operate out of the West York borough building.

“The affiliation agreement we have in place now meets the statutory requirement,” Sabol said, adding the lease lays out the contractual agreement between the municipalities, while the borough’s statement of intent to use the commission’s services is enough to finalize the deal.

Still, York City Council president Michael Helfrich has voiced doubts about any affiliation agreement that does not require West York to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance to give the commission authority to investigate West York residents' claims of housing, employment or education discrimination.

At a West York council meeting in April, multiple residents voiced their concerns over a perceived lack of transparency about the borough's offer to house the anti-discrimination commission. 

West York approves temporary lease for York City HRC

Several West York council members also voiced concerns over the agreement, which was worked out over lunch by West York Mayor Shawn Mauck and York City Mayor Kim Bracey. 

Former West York Mayor Charles Wasko, who resigned in October following public backlash over racist posts on his Facebook page, was also at that meeting to support residents who spoke against moving forward with the plans.

Lease approved: On Tuesday night, the York City Council ratified the lease agreement that the West York Borough Council approved at the beginning of April. 

Under the terms of the agreement to lease office space at the West York municipal building on West Poplar Street, the York City Human Relations Commission will pay the borough $100 per month to help cover utilities.

The York City Human Relations Commission has not had an office since the end of March, after being asked to leave the space it borrowed for seven years from York County in order to make space for expanding other county offices.