By Georgia Thelen
Review Staff Writer
The Human Rights Campaign Ordinance the Lake Orion Village Council passed at its Sept. 26 meeting takes effect on Oct. 5.
The village meeting and ordinance itself left several questions unanswered for residents, including who will handle these complaints, who will investigate and who will decide if a crime was committed.
The only complaints the village will investigate will be those not already illegal under state law, said Village Manager Darwin McClary.
The ordinance restates that the village will not tolerate discrimination based on any current state-protected classes — such as discrimination against race or ethnic background — yet the only cases the village would investigate locally would be ones that the state would not because it’s not a violation of state law. This means the complaint of discrimination is based on sexual orientation or gender identity, not a currently protected class under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
“So if someone felt they were the victim of discrimination, they can file a complaint with (the village) office. We would then start the investigation process: basically gathering information from both sides. We would review that, bring the parties together and look at all the facts,” McClary said.
When bringing the two parties together for a mediation process, McClary said the village is still unsure whether it would be him running the mediation sessions or an independent party.
The village is currently looking at outside parties, such as The Oakland Mediation Center, which is trained in handling various complaints of this nature to effectively resolve the situations at hand.
The purpose of the village collecting evidence from both parties and investigating the facts so deeply is solely to determine if there is enough proof or information to convince village officials that discrimination may have occurred.
If they find that there is enough evidence showing there was discriminatory act, the Village could issue a civil infraction citation. After a citation is issued, the person receiving the citation would have a court date to determine the amount the amount of the fine and severity of the infraction.
“We are not determining guilt or innocence. Just like any other ordinance, we issue a citation and then people go to court,” McClary said. “They argue before a judge whether they are guilty or innocent. All our ordinance does is add an extra step that protects both sides in a confidential matter.”
With this ordinance in place, village officials hope that the extra step provides the mediation necessary for two parties to discuss their differences and work them out prior to moving forward with issuing a ticket.
McClary believes this will provide more due process than the village’s other ordinance enforcement processes currently do.
“I think the ordinance is a good one. I think it’s fair and I think it tries to promote an opportunity for people to work together and gain a better understanding of each other,” said McClary.
By Georgia Thelen