Wednesday, May 22, 2013

HRC Omits SF Pride/Manning Mess From 5/23 Agenda But . . .

Attorney David Waggoner and a group of gay human rights advocates recently filed a formal complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, over SF Pride's naming Bradley Manning a grand marshal at the Parade this year and then rescinding the honor. Waggoner is former co-chair of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club.

The HRC's executive director is Theresa Sparks, who is a member of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club's board of directors and former chair of the group. Also on the board are Lisa Williams and Lou Fischer who are the chair and secretary respectively of the SF Pride board of directors.

I digress to provide some LGBT political club context that may be a factor or two in how Sparks and the HRC process the Waggoner, et al, complaint.

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 23, the HRC will hold its regular monthly meeting out in the community and not at City Hall. The meeting will be at the Bessie Carmichael Elementary School located at 375 - 7th Street, near Harrison, and it starts at 6:30 pm. Public comment comes at the beginning of the meeting for items not on the agenda.

Since Item 5 is Sparks' director report and only mentions her speaking about an award to be given by the HRC, I asked Tanareh Moayed of the commission if the report would include anything about the complaint. Moayed said:

Regarding your second question, the Manning matter relates to a complaint filed with HRC last week. HRC is currently reviewing the complaint with each of the relevant parties to the complaint. As such, HRC is not at liberty to comment on this matter publicly at this time.

Since the matter is omitted from the agenda, that means members of the public are free to comment about the complaint.

Color me skeptical that Sparks will conduct a fair and even investigation into the complaint because I saw how she mishandled the complaint filed in October by transgender leader Veronika Fimbres over being denied equal access by MUMC to use the public flag pole at Harvey Milk Plaza to raise the Trans Pride flag on Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The Bay Area Reporter's Matthew Bajko wrote in November:

[Sparks] said her agency had been working with the City Attorney’s office to review the legalities around the flagpole. Sparks advised MUMC that it was unclear what would happen should the city be asked to take over the flagpole [...] “It is not an easy issue to deal with,” said Sparks, citing complications that could arise over freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment. “I am not sure what could happen to opening it to other flags.”

Seen the release of that HRC investigation and the findings of Sparks, or follow up BAR reporting? Of course not, since Sparks has kept mum about the Trans Pride complaint and the larger matter of control of public property at the plaza. 

Additionally, promises by the HRC to hold a simple town hall meeting in the Castro about the flag controversy were thwarted by Sparks, who said an elected official had threatened her agency's budget if the meeting took place, according to HRC minutes.

We'll see if Sparks handles the complaint against SF Pride with the transparency and public accountability we didn't witness over the Trans Pride flag complaint.

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