HRC Agrees to Hear Petitions…But Doesn’t Tell Petitioners

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) is having a meeting tomorrow night in Seattle. On the agenda, they will have a hearing on three separate petitions to repeal WAC 162-32-060, the open bathroom policy they implemented in December.

The meeting will take place Thursday, March 24th at 5:30 pm at the Seattle City Council Chamber, 600 4th Ave. #2, Seattle 98104.

While it is unclear when notice of the meeting was first made available to the public, those who actually filed the petition to repeal the bill learned of the meeting just today–one day before the meeting was scheduled to take place.

Former Senator Joyce Mulliken filed one of the petitions to repeal, along with three other former state legislators.  On her Facebook page she noted that she received notice of the meeting only one day prior to the meeting.  She wasn’t notified by the Human Rights Commission but from current legislators who learned about the meeting.

Since she is out of state, the lack of notice will effectively deny her the opportunity to even be heard by the commission.

Sue Lani Madsen, who filed a separate petition, also learned about the meeting today through friends in the legislature. Since she lives in Spokane, making it to Seattle with no notice was simply not possible for her.  Here is what she sent to the HRC.

“Re: Meeting Scheduled for March 24, 2016
Having received no acknowledgement of the receipt of my petition, I was planning to followup next week with a phone call. However, Sen. Judy Warnick just brought to my attention that my name is listed on the agenda for your meeting tomorrow evening in Seattle. It is not possible for me to travel to Seattle on less than 24 hours notice. I will be following up Friday morning to ascertain what options might be available to provide accommodation.”

Since this story was first published, we have received noticed that the Human Right’s Commission has agreed to delay the hearing on Ms. Madsen’s petition until April 28th.

This failure to give notice to those involved seems to be standard operating procedure for the HRC.

During deliberations about the open bathroom rule, they scheduled four public meetings.  However, according to their own record, only forty-six people showed up…total… to all four meetings.

According to Susan Ortiz, Executive Director of the HRC, they received no concerns about the rule during the public comment period.

The only reasonable explanation for the lack of input on the issue is that no one knew the discussion was taking place.

Unfortunately, the outrage generated by their failure to communicate when creating the rule does not seem to have motivated them to improve communications now that the public is expressing grave concerns about the outcome.

While it isn’t reasonable to expect a press conference to announce the agenda for every meeting, it shouldn’t be too much to expect them to notify those who specifically file petitions to be told when their requests are going to be discussed and that there will be an opportunity for public comment.  But that would be reasonable only if they believe the public is entitled to be part of the process.

At this point, however, the jury is out on whether the HRC views the public as a constituency to be served or an obstacle to be overcome.

Since Sen. Mulliken and Ms. Madsen won’t be able to make their voices heard (and maybe other petitioners as well) you should show up at this hearing and make up for it.  Bring a friend.  Fight the bureaucracy because they’re fighting you.

*This story was revised at 11:58 am on 3/24/16 to reflect the fact that the hearing for Ms. Madsen has been moved to April 28th.

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