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Onondaga County/Syracuse Commission on Human Rights

Barrie Gewanter
Executive Director

Bridget Owens
Human Rights Specialist

John H. Mulroy Civic Center,
Suite 19 - Basement Level
421 Montgomery Street
Syracuse, NY 13202

(315) 435-3565

 

Free Call from Inmates at Jail or Jamesville: (315) 435-3567 

 

About Us

Human Rights Commission Members

HR Logo


The members of the Human Rights Commission include up to 24 Commissioners who are confirmed by vote of the Onondga County Legislature to serve staggered three-year terms. This includes 18 members appointed by the County Executive subject to Legislature approval.  6 of those appointments are based on Legislator recommendation.  6 additional members are appointed directly by the Mayor of Syracuse.

 

On June 7, 2016 the appointment of the 12 new Human Rights Commissioners by the County Executive was confirmed by the Onondaga County Legislature.  An additional 4 new Commissioners appointed by the Legislature were confirmed on July 5, 2016.  An additional 6 new Commissioners were appointed by the Mayor of the City of Syracuse and began to participate actively in Commission meetings and activities in February 2017. 

 

These current 22 Commissioners of Human Rights are as follows:

 

  • Reverend H. Bernard Alex      
  • Steve Butler
  • Suzana Carman
  • Bruce Carter, PhD
  • Sanjay Chhablani
  • Shui-Kai Chin, Previous Chair
  • Crystal M. Doody, Esq.
  • Rabbi Daniel J. Fellman - Co-Chair
  • Starr L. Guckert
  • Reverend Douglas P. Mackey
  • Suzette M. Melendez, Esq.
  • Montanette C. Murphy
  • Francis M. Parks
  • David E. Paskinski
  • Gabriel Ramos
  • John C. Rushing III
  • Leonardo L. Sanchez, R.N. - Chair
  • Shelley Skellington
  • Mary Alice Smothers
  • Joyce M. Suslovic
  • Jeffrey Tamburo
  • Rosalie Young

Dewitt

Syracuse

Liverpool

Syracuse

Manlius

Jamesville

Syracuse

Jamesville

Camillus

Tully

Manlius

Syracuse

Syracuse

Fayetteville

North Syracuse

Syracuse

Syracuse

Lacona

Syracuse

Syracuse

Syracuse

Dewitt

 

 

 

The appointment of 2 remaining Commissioners is still TBA, but is expected before the end of this year.

 

The Human Rights Commission was founded in 1963 as an entity of the City of Syracuse.  It later became a joint City of Syracuse - Onondaga County entity.  In 1997 the Onondaga County/Syracuse Human Rights Commission became an entity that was housed in and supported by Onondaga County.  The City retained the ability to appoint 6 members of the Commission. 

 

The County Legislature defunded the Commission's staff in 2010, but 2 key functions of the old Commission office were retained, and 2 related staff were transferred into other County Departments. The Commission as a body did not meet for 5 years.  Then in February 2015 the Onondaga County Legislature passed legislation to renew and stengthen the Human Rights Commission, to charge the Commission staff with providing support to the new Justice Center Oversight Committee (JCOC) in addition to their regular Commisison duites, and to restore a budget line for a Commission office and an Executive Director.          (click here to view 2015 Local Laws D Establishing the JCOC & E Renewing the Human Rights Commission) 

 

The Human Rights office was re-opened in August 2015 with 2 staff - an Executive Director and one Human Rights Specialist.  After the appointment of an initial group of 16 new Commissioners were confirmed by the County Legislature, the first meeting of the new Human Rights Commission was held on Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016.

 

Monthly meetings of the full Commission are now held on either the 3rd or 4th Wednesday of each month.  Meeting dates and locations are posted on this website.  The business portions of these meetings are open to the public.  Members of the public and the media can contact the Commisison office if they wish to receive email notice of upcoming meetings.    

 

Working Committees of the Human Rights Commission

 

The Human Rights Commissioners pursue their goals through 5 Working Committees:

 

The OUTREACH COMMITTEE works to get information out to the community about the work of the Commission and its staff.  The Committee is currently working on a Human Rights Commission brochure.

 

The EDUCATION COMMITEE works to get information to the community about individual human and civil rights topics.  This can include information in written form or through in-person presentations or event tabling.

 

The ADVOCACY COMMITEE works to follow up on reports of discrimination in the community, to assist traditionally underrepresented groups in addressing patterns of discrimination, and to propose strategies to reduce the potential for discrimination. 

 

The LAW ENFORCEMENT-COMMUNITY RELATIONS COMMITTEE works to improve understanding between the law enforcement community and the public

 

The EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE works to guide the decision making of the Commissiion, especially between scheduled meetings.  This Committee is composed of the current Chairperson & Co-Chairperson, the previous Chair person the Chairpersons of the 4 Committees below.

 

The current members of each of the first four committees are as follows.  The names of committee chairpersons are underlined.

 

OUTREACH

EDUCATION

ADVOCACY

LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMUNITY RELATIONS

 

Rev. Doug Mackey David Pasinski

Suzette Melendez

Rev. Bernard Alex

Steve Butler

 

Joyce Suslovic

Francis Parks

Bruce Carter

Shiu-Kai Chin

Sanjay Chhablani

Jeffrey Tamburo

 

Starr Guckert

Rabbi Dan Fellman

Francis M. Parks

Rosalie Young

John Rushing

 

 

 

Gabe Ramos

M.A. Smothers

Montanette Murphy

Crystal Doody

Suzie Carman

 

 

 

Current Staff

Executive Director - Barrie Gewanter     
Human Rights Specialist - Bridget Owens

  Barrie Gewanter at Outreach Display Table                           Bridget at Community Info. Fair

 

 

Current Interns - Willow Faulkner (Masters in Public Administration Program at SU)

                             Jessica Brosofsky (International Relations Major at SU

 

Staff Objectives

 

- Provide diversity training to all county employees and to non-profit human services agencies

- Provide presentations about human and civil rights, diversity and discrimination for community groups and organizations

- Respond to requests for information, referral and other forms of assistance from community members (from 9am to 6pm Monday through Friday as staff are available)

- Provide administrative support to the members of the Human Rights Commission and Justice Center Oversight Committee

- Identify and investigate serious complaints relating to the Onondga County Justice Center for consideration by the Jail Oversight Committee

- Coordinate Onondaga County's Title VI, ADA & LEP Plan in collaboration with Administrators in each County Department

 

- Investigate serious allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, and public accomodations

- Utilize processes of conference, conciliation, persuasion and education to address or resolve
situations of intergroup conflict and alleged discrimination;

- Produce pamphlets and factsheets to provide the public with information about human and civil rights, and about the Commission and its work


 
 
 
 
 



 
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