Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Judicial review determines human rights office needs name change in London

Superior Court justice Jeffrey Flinn delivered his long-awaited review of London's troubled human rights office to council yesterday and has recommended, in addition to minor structural changes, renaming the position of human rights specialist to human rights co-ordinator. Flinn's recommendations are nothing more than feeble half-measures — nothing less than renaming the position HUMAN RIGHTS CZAR will invest the office with the desired facade of bureaucratic authority required to appear to officially deal with the problems of bureaucracy! Otherwise, abolish the unproductive additional layer of administration in city hall as per my previous suggestion and refer the cases of harrassment and abuse the office was meant to adjucicate and prevent either to the courts if appropriate or the sound judgment of city managers — or if they have none, that of their replacements. [For the sorry history of London's human rights specialist position, see this article here.]

Or perhaps not to the courts, if retired justice Flinn's non-review is an example of the discrimination of fault and the decisive implementation of remedy that one can expect from the judiciary these days. From the London Free Press:

In releasing the review yesterday, retired Superior Court justice Jeffrey Flinn didn't name names or lay blame in his study of the office dogged by controversy since it opened in 2002.
How helpful is that? Moreover, the substance of Flinn's criticism — at least as far as is presented in the Free Press — is terribly insubstantial and meaningless:
"The malaise is a result of the history of disappointments," Flinn said. "I'm talking about an unease with the office."
Of course, half-measures and glib ineffectual assessments may be exactly what the city was looking for in the first place — unless they are ready to be disabused of their notions that harrassment and abuse are not simply administrative glitches in procedure or a lack of doctrinaire sensitivity. Unfortunately, that would require some thought. On January 27, mayor Anne Marie DeCicco was almost breathless in her anticipation of the report:
"We want to know if there's anything we can improve, if we're using the right process or if he has any recommendations."
That Flinn's review is nothing more than a temporary cover for the city's inability to remedy the very public problems of the human rights office is demonstrated by the enthusiastic and lightning-fast same-day cheerleading response of DeCicco to the recommendations — there was clearly no need to trouble with the painful task of analyzing the suggestions, or even to take a breath:
"Now, the recommendations in his review are going to strengthen the office and give employees confidence in the system."
Simply quoting the mayor in text never does justice to the alacrity with which she expresses her public relations sentiments.

Whether Londoners can look forward to greater efficiency and effectiveness in the human rights office of city hall will remain to be seen. As a matter of fact, the majority of Londoners who do not work for the city itself will not see any difference at all except that their cost of maintaining the office is likely to increase. Flinn's recommendations:
  • The human rights specialist's position should be renamed the human rights co-ordinator.
  • The co-ordinator should report to the chief administrative officer, not human resources.
  • To preserve the co-ordinator's neutrality, only outside experts should conduct investigations.
  • Stricter timelines should be implemented for the filing and handling of complaints.
  • The office should have adequate staffing and budget, including money to hire investigators.
  • Policies to ensure greater confidentiality should be adopted, such as all files under lock and key in the human rights office.


basil said...

The human rights specialist's position should be renamed the human rights co-ordinator.
This is because the word "specialist" implies some kind of superiority. Nobody is special - we are all equal.

Honey Pot said...

The whole thing was a farce from the get go. I am surprised they would hire a male to suss out the made up facts on such a sensitive issue. Any news on how much it cost for the Judge to tell them they are all a bunch of wingwangs?

MapMaster said...

Oh, I'm quite sure that males and females alike are equally capable of putting out such inoffensive dribble. Why anyone would want to, I can't imagine.

As to the cost, I can't recall seeing it published anywhere. Chalk it up to another one of those departmental disbursements that doesn't require a budget line item.