To the Editor:
This week, the state’s federally mandated Protection Advocacy System Representative agency for the protection of the legal and human rights of disabled persons in the state of West Virginia, Disability Rights WV, took the rare step of calling for the City of Wheeling to remove, or cause to resign, Steve Novotney from membership on the Wheeling Human Rights Commission. Noting negative comments which “target the very individuals the Commission is tasked with protecting” and a “clear bias against individuals with a mental disability,” a letter from State Agency Director Susan Given, MSW, LSW, observed that such comments run completely contrary to the goal and mission of the Human Rights Commission.
The Commission is a body which investigates complaints about discrimination in private housing accommodation and property transactions, public accommodation, and city employment occurring against vulnerable classes of persons with protected status under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, subsequently enacted into the Municipal Code Article 169 of the City of Wheeling. Persons with disabilities, a protected group under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and under Wheeling Code Article 169.02(d), have the Human Rights Commission as their city-appointed advocate in the event of unlawful discrimination against disabled person.
The Human Rights Commission of the City of Wheeling can have no claim to legitimacy as an adjudicative body with a member with deep and public bias against disabled persons on the Commission. Calling a disabled person “bacteria, spreading” is hate speech, and the need to decisively remove Committee members who are manifestly unfit is a defining moment for the legitimacy of our city government, for the protection of human rights, and for the rule of law and of strong, legitimate, and just institutions.
Katherine M. Ball, Esq.