August 1st, 2007
The Prince William County Human Rights Commission has taken it upon themselves to review the resolution adopted by the Board of County Supervisors on July 10 at the behest of several fringe organizations and has been conducting unlawful hearings. Help Save Manassas testified before the Human Rights Commission on August 1st and alterted them to our concerns, which they summarily dismissed. The following day Help Save Manassas called on County Executive Craig Gerhart to halt these hearings, and issued a press release.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Immigration Committee of the Prince William County Human Rights Commission:
My name is Greg Letiecq, and I am the president of Help Save Manassas, a grass-roots issue advocacy organization dedicated to reducing the number of illegal aliens present in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park.
I am glad to have this opportunity to address this body on behalf of Help Save Manassas and support it's efforts to ensure compliance with local, state and federal laws which prevent unlawful discrimination. There is no place in our community for this sort of unlawful conduct, which is contrary to American and Virginian values. We stand with you this evening, dedicated to the vision expressed by the founders of our republic and the American visionaries such as Martin Luther King, Jr. who helped us to perfect the practice of these values.
Help Save Manassas has been invited to these proceedings in order to “make a presentation”, presumably regarding the passage of a resolution by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors which was adopted on July 10th. Two days after that resolution was adopted, this commission independently began conducting hearings. The only basis for the commencement for these hearings we have been able to identify is a press release issued by the American Civil Liberties Union the same day these hearings started. We have asked the commission to provide us with any documentation in regard to these hearings, including any complaints filed, or directives from the Board of Supervisors in order to adequately prepare useful and relevant testimony in these proceedings.
We have been informed that there have been no complaints filed. We have been told that no one has directed the commission to undertake these proceeding. So without any clear basis or rationale established for the purpose or conduct of these hearings, conducted at taxpayer expense, the only documentation to which Help Save Manassas can be responsive is the press release issued by the ACLU. For all intents and purposes, it is the sole basis for these proceedings that is publicly available.
“Open government” at it's best. I wonder when it became permissible for this commission to schedule public hearings without public notice. To the best of my knowledge, this is unlawful.
The ACLU has called on this commission to oppose the resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors not on the basis of any demonstrated act of unlawful discrimination, not because the text of this resolution calls on any county agency or employee to violate state or federal law, but because the ACLU has somehow derived a hidden intent by the Board of County Supervisors to engage in unlawful discrimination. This is contrary to the publicly stated intent of the Supervisors, both in their public comments and within the text of the resolution, to discourage unlawful behavior, bring county policy into compliance with federal law, and protect the welfare of the residents of Prince William County. This baseless and fanciful speculation as to the motivations of our elected officials is utterly irresponsible.
Executive Director Kent Willis, in his letter to this commission, expressed outrage at the comments by citizens made before the board. He implies that there is something wrong with the Constitutionally protected right of American Citizens to petition their representatives for the redress of grievances as provided for in the First Amendment to the Constitution. How stunning it is to see the ACLU, the supposed defenders of the Bill of Rights, complain to the Human Rights Commission that the exercise of political free speech is somehow wrong. While these “promoters” of liberty regularly defend the right of the Ku Klux Klan to inject their hate speech into our political discourse, a common citizen cannot express their legitimate concerns about the quality of life in their neighborhood? This blatant hypocrisy is outrageous.
The ACLU expresses their concern regarding the implementation of this resolution, which hasn't happened yet, and based on their fears about what might happen, calls on the Commission to oppose this resolution, something the commission does not have the statutory power to do. Despite being a public interest law firm, the ACLU has apparently confused the Human Rights Commission with a court of competent jurisdiction. They call on the Human Rights Commission to render a judgment regarding the legality of a policy statement, despite no evidence whatsoever of any acts of unlawful discrimination, baseless conjecture about the motivations of public officials, and their displeasure with the content of political free speech by the citizens.
As a basis for conducting these proceedings, the statement of the ACLU is woefully deficient.
Chapter 10.1 of the Prince William County Code establishes the purpose of this commission, it's powers and authority. It is not a guide, it is not a suggestion, it is our law. This commission is not authorized to invent powers, dream of additional authorities, or change the purposes of this law. But as just as faulty as the twisted logic of the ACLU, this commission has decided to depart from the provisions of the law in conducting these hearings.
There has been no public notice for these hearings. Had we not heard rumors of these hearings and read newspaper articles reporting on these hearings after the fact, Help Save Manassas and other members of the public would never have known that they were to be conducted, where they would be held, and why. We believe that this is a violation of the law.
This commission has the statutory power to investigate “Conduct that violates any Virginia or federal statute or regulation governing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, familial status or disability”. No conduct has been alleged. No person has said that the passage of this resolution has resulted in any conduct by officials or agencies of the Prince William County Government in any way. Because this resolution hasn't been implemented yet, there cannot be a legal basis for these hearings.
The county code defines “unlawful discrimination” that falls within the purview of this commission. No where in that definition are illegal aliens identified as a protected class. Should this commission decide it would like to protect illegal aliens from the consequences of their unlawful behavior, it would need to convince the General Assembly to implement that change.
The function of this commission, as defined in Code Section 10.1-7 is “to eliminate unlawful discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment, education and credit facilities in Prince William County”. It does not enumerate a power of providing judicial review over the actions of the Board of County Supervisors.
The power of this commission to conduct hearings requires that there be a general or specific violation of the rights protected in Chapter 10.1 of the Prince William County Code or of Virginia Code Section 2.2-2634. It doesn't specify the possibility of some future violation of these rights in the mind of some creative individual. It doesn't empower this commission to spin up it's crystal ball to divine what the future may be, it requires that this commission address what is, not what may be. The expenditure of public funds in order to speculate on some possible future is not a power granted to this commission under the law.
Instead, these hearings have become a circus for fringe groups to come and complain before a friendly audience about legislative action by the Board of County Supervisors. By attempting to control who would be aware of these hearings, this commission has generally ensured that only those favored groups would receive an audience in order to obtain a predetermined outcome. There is no established basis for these hearings, so that they may devolve into whatever wild speculation or odd theorizing that may please the commissioners. The purpose of this hearing, to the degree that any purpose has been firmly established, is to provide an opportunity for fringe groups and outsiders to complain about the effects derived from their utter lack of support within the electorate. Meanwhile, who knows how much legitimate work of the commission in protecting those working and living in Prince William County gets shoved to the back burner while these weeks of meaningless hearings continue.
We call on Prince William County to put an end to this taxpayer-funded farce. This commission does not have the power to review legislation passed by the Board of County Supervisors. That is the job of the courts. There is no substantiated complaint of unlawful discrimination to investigate here, as demonstrated by the empty threats of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund which certainly would file a lawsuit in this regard given the thinnest possible reason to do so. If hearings should be conducted in regards to this resolution, it would at least make some degree of sense to wait until the details of the resolution's implementation have been finalized, and we have an opportunity to observe it's implementation rather than simply speculate on it. Should this blatant waste of taxpayer dollars continue, Help Save Manassas may well consider taking action to end it.
Maintaining the confidence of county taxpayers in this commission is critically important. Should this commission devolve into a partisan circus for fringe groups, no one will take it's recommendations and findings seriously. What this commission is charged with is vitally important to the quality of this county and our collective dedication to the rule of law. By returning to the employment of this commission's lawful powers and authorities, this commission will protect it's ability to effectively ensure civil rights in the future and maintain the confidence of the residents of Prince William County, which risks irreparable damage should these unlawful hearings continue.
There is a place for a discussion concerning the advisability of adopting legislation. This is not it. There is a venue for raising legal challenges to existing law. This is not it, either. And the law cannot be twisted in order to make this that place, no matter how some may desperately wish it were.
Thank you for your time.