Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback’s desire to move the Kansas Human Rights Commission to the attorney general’s office is drawing fire from the NAACP and others.
The Kansas Human Rights Commission investigates complaints alleging discrimination in the areas of employment, public accommodations and housing, as well as racial profiling in conjunction with traffic stops.
The NAACP said Brownback’s proposal will kill independent investigations of complaints against the state because those complaints would be filed with the attorney general’s office, which represents state agencies.
And in a letter, James Butler, who served as chairman and commissioner to the Kansas Human Rights Commission from 1979 to 2005, said the proposal was a bad idea because it would place the investigation of complaints under a partisan officeholder.
“I was shocked when I read the proposal and I still am because the office of Attorney General is an elected office and, for the first time in the history of the commission, the commission would be under the direction of an elected state office and political influence, subject to whatever bias may exist at any particular time. This move would eliminate 58 years of independent decision making in the area of civil rights in the State of Kansas,” Butler said.
Brownback has said his proposal would save $177,000 by eliminating the Human Rights Commission’s executive director, attorney and administrative specialist. Brownback in his budget proposal states, “By relocating the Commission to the Attorney General, the agency will have access to a wider array of resources and staff.”
Brownback’s office said legislation is being drawn up to move the commission to the attorney general’s office.