Human Rights panel members call for end of feud among commissioners


Members of the county Human Rights Commission said Thursday it is time to end a feud between a commissioner who resigned his chairmanship and three other commissioners.

"I thought I was joining a commission solving many, many problems facing the community," said the Rev. Roland W. Howard. "When fighting among ourselves, we lose. We've got to get on with the problems facing our community and the nation as a whole."

Dr. Virgilio Blanco agreed. "We have to stop this nonsense!" he said.

An early end to the verbal brawl between former chairman Roger W. Jones and Mr. Blanco, Mr. Howard and Robert Birdsong Jr. does not appear likely, however.

Eight commissioners attended the Thursday meeting, accepting unanimously Mr. Jones' resignation as chairman of the 11-member commission. Mr. Jones will remain a commissioner.

Mr. Jones and Mr. Birdsong have circulated letters among commission members that seem destined to perpetuate rather than bridge their estrangement.

Mr. Jones has castigated the three commissioners and called for their resignation after they refused last month to support a motion calling on the commission to endorse the appointment of gay and lesbian members.

But the three commissioners said the July 16 motion was unnecessary since the commission had already voted unanimously to support the candidacy of gay rights activist Robert Healy. Ms. Nyquist was ultimately confirmed by the County Council and attended Thursday night's meeting as a commissioner.

Neither Jones nor Mr. Birdsong were present Thursday, but letters circulated by both men were read aloud and entered into the minutes.

Mr. Birdsong's letter, sent to County Executive Charles I. Ecker, apologized for the way Mr. Jones conducted the July 16 meeting Mr. Ecker attended. "Only negative results can flow from such unprofessional conduct," Mr. Birdsong wrote.

Mr. Jones fired off a letter to Mr. Birdsong in response, calling him a "master placater," accusing him of being a liar, and saying that "it is not uncommon for gutless, spineless, snivelers to be embarrassed by the actions of men of mettle."

Commissioners sat in uncomfortable silence, heads in hands, as the letters were read.

The July 16 meeting ended in a closed session. Still unresolved is the question of what commissioners believe happened at the open portion of the July meeting.

Mr. Blanco and Mr. Howard say the minutes do not fairly report what happened and want the minutes amended. They want the minutes to say that the commission said "no" when asked whether Mr. Ecker discriminated against Mr. Healy by failing to appoint him to the commission after the commission unanimously endorsed Mr. Healy's candidacy.

Mr. Jones sees things so differently that he believes Mr. Howard, Mr. Blanco and Mr. Birdsong should resign. They "failed to see an apparent act of discrimination . . . perpetrated by the Howard County Executive," he said in his resignation letter, and "failed to support a gay citizen to their membership."

When Mr. Blanco objected to Mr. Jones' characterization, other commissioners played it down, saying it was merely an opinion stated in a letter.

After a short debate over whether to accept the minutes, acting chairman Lucie R. Pelgrim asked that they be tabled until disagreeing members can listen to a tape and achieve consensus as to how the minutes should be worded. They may stay tabled a long time.

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