Schenectady County

Questions swirl over axed human rights leader as Schenectady County seeks replacement

Supporters of fired executive director plan rally for Tuesday
Angelicia A. Morris, then executive director of the county Human Rights Commission, speaks in 2017.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Angelicia A. Morris, then executive director of the county Human Rights Commission, speaks in 2017.

SCHENECTADY — Three weeks after axing their executive director, the county Human Rights Commission will start accepting applications for a replacement on Monday.

While the position has been vacant following the termination of Angelicia A. Morris on Feb. 18, the 15-member board also lacks six members due to resignations and term expirations.

“It’s not clear why those were never filled like they were supposed to be,” said Acting Chairman Omar McGill.

Commissioners are appointed by county Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski with confirmation by county legislators, according to a county spokesperson. 

The board is now taking recommendations and aims to fill the vacancies by May, McGill said. 

At the same time, McGill is working with the county Department of Human Resources to begin the search for a new director. 

Commissioners will ultimately vote to select Morris’ replacement.

The county Human Rights Commission was established by the County Legislature in 1965 and is designed to probe incidents of tension and conflict between racial and religious groups and investigate complaints of alleged discrimination, among other responsibilities. 

The vacancies came as a surprise to Dr. Odo Butler, president of the Schenectady NAACP.

“That’s something I will look into to try to understand why and what they’re doing to appoint more commissioners,” Butler said.

McGill said the empty seats are not compromising the commission’s work. 

“The commissioners we have are dedicated to the county Human Rights Commission and committed to doing their best for the people in Schenectady County,” he said.

McGill and commissioner Marva Isaacs declined to comment on Morris’ termination.

Morris has threatened legal action and enlisted Kevin Luibrand as counsel, who declined to discuss possible litigation.

“There’s none that I can share with you at this point,” Luibrand said.

County officials have declined to discuss details surrounding Morris’ departure, citing personnel reasons. But a spokesperson acknowledged members of the Human Rights Commission voted to “make a change” with regards to her position on Feb. 13. 

Morris, who held the position since 2013, previously referred questions to Randall McGough, a former commissioner and current chairman of the commission’s Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition. 

McGough declined comment, citing advice from Luibrand. But he did say Morris’ termination has generated ire from community members.

A rally is slated ahead of the County Legislature meeting on Tuesday. 

Event organizer Maria S. Pacheco blasted the county for what she contends is lack of transparency regarding the dismissal of someone she said was a “fierce advocate” for the community. 

“There should be a humane due process to let someone know what they’re doing wrong in their job, or have an opportunity to improve,” Pacheco said.

Pacheco also said the county was opaque regarding the replacement process, and called for more community input in how commissioners are selected.

Decisions related to Morris’ employment are the responsibility of the commissioners — not the County Legislature or manager, said a county spokesperson.

Following the rally, which begins at 6:30 p.m., attendees will deliver comments to legislators. 

“I am appalled and outraged,” Pacheco said. “We are beyond angry about the manner in which she was dismissed.”

Candidates seeking to apply for the executive director position can send materials to [email protected] Applications are due March 23.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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