Dr. Samuel Hoff was unanimously selected chair of the Dover Human Relations Commisison during the group's Feb. 25 meeting, and the commission is looking ahead with full membership

    Dr. Samuel Hoff was unanimously chosen to chair the Dover Human Relations Commission at the Feb. 25 meeting. Hoff was the only commissioner nominated for the position.

    Hoff has been chairman of the 15-member Dover HRC since 2005.

    “I’d like to thank my colleagues for the confidence they have expressed in my service by your nomination and election of me for another year,” he said. “I deeply appreciate it.”

    The selection of the commission chair recently came under scrutiny when a proposal to change the procedure was introduced in a Dover City Council committee meeting, but was subsequently tabled.

    The commission, which was created in 2002, reports to city council.

    Council President Kenneth Hogan, and council members Sophia Russell and Thomas Leary proposed to let council appoint the chair, rather than allow the commission choose its own.

    Relations between the council president and commission chair have been strained at times, which led to some council members wishing to comprehensively review the commission’s bylaws.

    According to the commission’s December meeting minutes, Hoff told the other commissioners he was willing to continue to serve as chairman, despite realizing some of the controversy was directed at him and could disappear if he stepped down.

    “We’re about principles not personalities,” said commissioner Gregory Bunkley. He was elected vice chair on a vote of 7-4 at the February meeting, against one other nominee.

    Several other commissioners also expressed their desire to continue electing their own chair at that December meeting.

    In addition to the chair election, Hoff noted during the meeting last week the commission has for the first time in six months and for about the third time in five years a full contingent of members, thanking the council president and Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. for quick re-appointments when members leave.

    “In a few years past there was an embarrassing lag for those members,” he said, “and although my colleagues will testify of my constant efforts on their behalf, it was an ongoing process of making sure we have a full contingent on the commission.

    “It has been one of the ongoing challenges of my tenure on the commission and certainly as chair,” Hoff said.

    New members added during 2008 were Dawn Allen-Pyne, Saundra Sutton, Anlee Baccio-Walker, Brian Lewis and Mark Monroe. Catherine Gregory and Nauleen Perry are new members appointed this year.

    In a later interview, Commissioner Paul Flemming said he looks forward to working with the new members, who he said seem like fine people with a good civic conscience.

    Overall, in his time with the commission, there hasn’t been much change in how it operates and Flemming said he doesn’t see it changing much with full membership.

    Although the commission was formed in 2002 after a man died while in police custody, Flemming said in his five years on the commission they’ve tried to be proactive by preventing potential concerns, reaching out to the community and answering questions.

    “We try to ID potential problems and nip those in the bud before they become serious issues,” he said.

    At the meeting, Hoff also said he was glad of the commission’s makeup.

    “Not only do we have full membership, but most importantly we have full representation of the city; representation in terms of places people live, representation in terms of the demographic characteristics of those members and representation on the issue positions that members hold relative to their concerns or the charge of the commission,” he said.

  Email Jayne Gest at jayne.gest@doverpost.com.