Dover City Council on Sept. 23 approved several changes to the city's Human Relations Commission

Dover's City Council members the night of Sept. 23 unanimously approved fundamental changes to the city's Human Relations Commission, even after they had earlier rejected proposed changes.
The changes came after several weeks of debate, beginning with hearings on Aug. 26 before the council's Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee.
Key provisions in the amended ordinance include:
- reducing commission membership from 15 persons to nine; each of the city's four council districts would be represented by two commissioners, with a ninth at-large commissioner.
- allowing the council president to appoint members, with the approval of council; previously commission members were appointed jointly by the council president and mayor.
- reducing the number of meetings from once a month to one per quarter, with a fifth to be called at a date and time to be determined by commission members.

Gail E. Launay, a Sussex County member of the state HRC, spoke out in favor of the changes during a public hearing.

“I came to tell you I am very proud of you for taking a long, hard look at your Human Relations Commission, especially the plans and procedures keeping you involved,” she told council.

Commission President Roy Sudler Jr., while saying he was pleased with the final product, said he wanted a change to allow the commission to meet in neighborhoods, not just in City Hall. That idea had been floated before, but was not adopted either in the Legislative committee or when Councilman Timothy Slavin brought it up as an amendment; Slavin’s motion died without getting a second.

At that point, Sudler got up and left the meeting.

The issue of commission member appointments came up briefly as Mayor Carleton E. Carey asked for an explanation as to why the city’s chief executive was removed from the selection process. A motion to allow the mayor to appoint four members was defeated by a 5-3 vote, with only councilmen Slavin, Wallace Dixon and Sean Lynn voting in favor.

Seeing the ordinance change was going to be passed without amendments, the remainder of the audience who had come to watch the proceedings also left.

Currently, there are eight active members of the HRC, meaning Council President David Bonar is required to appoint one more. Whether the membership will change based on the new requirement each council district be represented by two appointees remains to be seen as that issue was not addressed in the ordinance change.