Putnam lawmakers vote down creation of human rights commission

CARMEL – Despite the highly charged atmosphere across the country over racial equity, one area county has opted not to form a human rights commission.

By a six to three vote, the Putnam County legislature on Friday night rejected a proposal making the county the only one in the region not to have such an organization.

Legislator Nancy Montgomery first proposed the commission in January because of the increase in hate crimes across the region.

Legislator Neal Sullivan, who chairs the Rules Committee, which supported the move, said it would have “assisted residents with educational and informational opportunities related to issues dealing with human rights serving as an advisory board.”

Legislator Paul Jonke said the state has a Human Rights Commission with more than 160 employees. “I cannot envision how a Putnam County Human Rights Commission, a non-funded agency with no investigative authority, will have any power. We don’t need an untrained, unfunded volunteer agency to handle serious allegations,” he said. “You can still be in favor of human rights and be opposed to a human rights commission.”

Legislature Chairwoman Toni Addonizio, who voted against creating the commission, said Putnam is “not immune to discrimination. I am not suggesting that by any means. A local commission would only serve as a duplication of services. There is no need to form a panel when we all have access to the New York State Division of Human Rights.”

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