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Common Council interviews two for citizen rights commission

WBFO News file photo

Buffalo's Commission on Citizens' Rights and Community Relations doesn't have an executive director and has several vacant seats. Tuesday morning, the Buffalo Common Council's Civil Service Committee gets a chance to interview two nominees for board vacancies.Before the Committee Tuesday will be Acting Commission Chair Charles Torres and Ekua Mends-Aidoo. It's not clear when the Brown Administration will find someone to take the executive director post and to appoint a permanent chair.  

University District Common Council member Rasheed Wyatt said the commission needs that full-time executive director.  

"We have not been told anything. I believe that councilmember Franczyk has inquired. I'm going to be inquiring because we do need someone in that position," Wyatt said. "We did have a former attorney that was involved in that position. He took another job. But I think that position is really needed and we need someone that can hit the ground running and really address the issues that we have so often that it just seems they fall through the cracks."

The commission is primarily charged with monitoring Buffalo Police and is supposed to have a wide array of powers to probe actions by the police department, including access to investigation documents.

It is believed the administration is having trouble finding someone to fill the top job on a commission that deals with some really controversial cases and issues, like ground rules proposed for police body cameras.

Niagara District Common Council member David Rivera, a former Buffalo Police officer, said the interviews are important.

"We want to get a feel for who they are, what experiences, expertise they can lend to the position," Rivera said. "It's a very important position and we want them to make sure that they folllow up on many of the complaints and concerns that are out there."

"When I'm making a choice on whether to confirm an appointment, it is based on where that person's loyalty is and passion is," said Common Council President darius Pridgen. "I know at least one of the persons, a person whose name was brought forward. He has an extensive history in law enforcement, but he also has this part about him about caring about community."

Officially, the Commission on Citizens’ Rights and Community Relations "strives to eliminate prejudice, intolerance, bigotry and discrimination; to encourage equality of treatment and prevent discrimination against persons based upon race, ethnic background, cultural background, language, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, nationality and age; and to assure respect for the civil liberties of all citizens."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.