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Fayetteville panel nominates Civil Rights Commission members

by Dan Holtmeyer | October 29, 2015 at 1:20 a.m.
File Photo/NWA DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE Fayetteville officials are beginning the process of selecting members for its Civil Rights Commission.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A potential slate of members for the city's new Civil Rights Commission is now headed to the City Council.

The council's Nominating Committee without opposition chose seven possible members for the commission Wednesday evening after interviewing 15 people representing the business and rental community, human resources and a medley of other occupations and walks of life. The group now goes to the City Council's Nov. 3 meeting for a vote up or down.

Meeting information

Fayetteville City Council

• When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3

• Where: Room 219, City Administration Building, 113 W. Mountain St.

Aldermen Mark Kinion, Sarah Marsh and Martin Schoppmeyer aimed for a diversity of perspectives and experience, choosing prospective members who are black, white, gay, straight, young and old.

"I'm just so proud that we had such a great group of people," Marsh, who represents Ward 1, said after the committee vote. "You couldn't have asked for a better group of candidates."

The committee's nominees are:

• Candy Clark, a former justice of the peace and owner of C&C Services and All Around Self-Storage

• D'Andre Jones, a Walmart recruiter and City Council candidate last year

• Teresa Turk, a rental property owner who also works with the National Park Service

• Rebekah Champaign, a rental property manager and massage therapist

• Henderson Joseph Brown IV, a lawyer who investigates civil rights complaints for the U.S. Department of Agriculture

• Chris Christoffel, a retired IBM manager who was the only woman at her engineering school

• Benjamin Harrison, a volunteer with the For Fayetteville campaign in support of the ordinance

After the City Council sets its membership, the volunteer commission will go about enforcing the Uniform Civil Rights Protection Ordinance voters approved in September.

The ordinance prohibits businesses and landlords from making business decisions, such as who to hire or serve, based on sexual orientation or gender identity -- age, race, religion and other characteristics are already protected in this way. Any complaints of discrimination go first to the city attorney's office for an attempt at mediation, then to the commission if needed.

The ordinance also set the membership of the commission: two members representing the business community, two who own or manage rental properties, one with experience in human resources or labor law, and two members of the community at large, with at least one of them identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

All of the candidates interviewed expressly supported the ordinance or, if they didn't say so explicitly, at least said they supported its aims. They all also stressed fairness as the highest priority in the commission's work.

Brown said the claimants in his investigations almost always feel aggrieved and the managers almost always feel defensive, with neither in a trusting mood.

"It's up to us to get past that barrier and get to the heart of the matter," Brown said of the commission's work during his interview, echoing other candidates.

Brown, who along with Jones is African American, said his parents marched on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement, and he saw the ordinance as part of the same arc of history.

"I was thrilled that the ordinance passed, and I was thrilled that the city took at shot at this," he said.

Clark, who married her wife in 2013, also echoed several candidates when she said she saw the commission as a way to serve and make the community better.

"If you can do the job, you should do the job; if you can pay the rent, you should pay the rent," Clark said of her idea of fairness. "People are people."

NW News on 10/29/2015

Print Headline: Panel picks civil rights nominees


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