Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Council has Limited Authority

As the County Council grapples with numerous controversial zoning appeals, some want them to get involved in a dispute plaguing the Light House homeless shelter in Annapolis . Over the last two months some people, including a former employee, have filed formal allegations of discrimination and harassment against the shelter. As of now, it remains unclear what relief the interested parties expect from the Council.

Now, the county did grant over $100,000 for operating costs at the Light House over the past two years. Likewise, the organization received $1.2 million in tax dollars towards a new facility. Thus, the county has some scant interest in the place. Still, it’s doubtful our council has much legal authority to meddle in their affairs. After all, the institution classifies as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and not a government agency.

Make no mistake, I think this situation warrants an investigation. Nonetheless, we have other government entities in place to redress these grievances. So far, the Anne Arundel County Human Relations Commission has yet to issue their findings in this case. If anything, they have sole jurisdiction on a local level. Beyond that, the State Attorney General or the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission could take up the case. Unlike the council, these bodies have clear legal authority to intervene in such matters.

In general, I am skeptical about any party that skips around to multiple venues in hopes of finding a sympathetic ear. Moreover, I am troubled that the complainants disregarded the grievance process at the Light House in favor of involving several different agencies. Often, bypassing this step doesn’t look good in the eyes of a governing authority.

Regardless, I see no reason for the Anne Arundel County Council to waste valuable time by taking up this case. At the very least, they can postpone their involvement until they debate whether or not to allocate future funds. In the meantime, they can sit back and allow others to ascertain the facts.

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