News Column

Nominee Claims Bias Due to Ties With Hispanic Community

Feb 20 2013 10:00PM

Chris Lavender

Scott Zienty said he believes the Alamance County (N.C.) Board of Commissioners decided not to appoint him to the Alamance County Human Relations Council this week because of his close ties to the Latino community and work with Centro La Comunidad.

Centro La Comunidad is a Latino resource center in Burlington that supports families with information and referral services, case management, clinical counseling, family budgeting, education, pregnancy services, programs for pre-kindergarten, educational workshops and advocacy.

The commissioners decided on Monday to send Zienty's nomination back to the Human Relations Council for further review because of concerns they expressed over how long Zienty has lived in the community. According to his nomination application, Zienty has lived in Elon for a year and a half. His employer is listed as Centro La Comunidad on the application.

Zienty's nomination was among three nominations under consideration for the Human Relations Council. Capt. Steve Smith of the Burlington Police Department and James Moir of Burlington were nominated by the Human Relations Council to be reappointed.

It wasn't clear during the meeting whether the commissioners agreed to reappoint Smith and Moir to serve another term. County Manager Craig Honeycutt said Wednesday there was some confusion over whether the reappointments were approved and the county will review the meeting video and notes to determine what happened.

Commissioner Bill Lashley requested Zienty's nomination be pulled from the consent agenda for discussion. Both Lashley and Commissioner David Smith said they were fine with the two reappointments but had some reservations about appointing Zienty to the council.

Smith said he would like to see someone appointed on the council who has lived in the area for longer than Zienty.

"The reason that I have on Mr. Zienty is that he's only been in Alamance County for a year and half and I just think we can find somebody a little more qualified to serve on this board because it's a very important board in the county," Smith said.

Commissioner Tim Sutton requested county administration provide the board with the names and backgrounds of those currently serving. The nominations were selected by the Human Relations Council chairperson for the commissioners' consideration.

According to the Human Relations Council constitution and bylaws, the council members serve two-year terms. Some of the council's duties include studying and recommending strategies for the prevention of potential human relations problems and crises as well as identifying and documenting areas of human needs in housing, employment, education and recommending strategies for meeting those needs.

The council also serves as a conciliatory body for resolving tension and human conflict in times of public disorder. According to the bylaws, the council cannot have more than 25 people. The council uses subcommittees to oversee education, employment, housing, and publicity.

Zienty said on Wednesday he was surprised to learn that the commissioners didn't approve his nomination.

"I want to know why I am being singled out," Zienty said.

Zienty pointed out that the commissioners had approved Maseta Dorley of Whitsett last Oct. 22 to serve on the council. Dorley had lived in the county for nine months when her appointment was approved, according to her application.

Zienty said he didn't want to believe that his work with local Latino groups was a factor in the commissioners' decision to withhold his nomination but based on what happened it was difficult for him to come to any other conclusion.

SMITH AND LASHLEY said on Wednesday their reason to withhold support for Zienty had nothing to do with his work in the Latino community. Smith said it didn't matter to him who Zienty worked for and that he didn't believe Zienty had been in the community long enough to serve on the council.

Smith was not on the board in October when Dorley was approved. Lashley said he still believes that Zienty shouldn't be on the board because of the brief time he has lived in the county and that it had nothing to do with his work for Centro La Comunidad.

Lashley said he wasn't impressed with Zienty's credentials and that he wouldn't be the best person to place on the council.

According to County Manager Craig Honeycutt, there are no guidelines for length of residency for those seeking to serve on the council.

Commissioner Tom Manning said on Wednesday that if Zienty had questions or concerns about the nomination approval process he should contact the board first and not run to the media. Manning said he believes Zienty is making his claims against the county commissioners to gain publicity.

Zienty said Wednesday that he tried to call a couple of commissioners this week and was unsuccessful.

Zienty said it is his understanding that it was not common for the commissioners to delay or reject nominations to the council.

"People get approved all the time," Zienty said.

Zienty said he was approached by Human Relations Council chairwoman Alexa Jordan to consider serving.

Zienty's nomination application was submitted to the county on Feb. 5. He said he was prepared to serve if needed. Zienty said he believed that there are still some tensions in the Latino community over the results of the Department of Justice's investigation into the Alamance County Sheriff's Office over allegations of discrimination against Latinos communities.

Sutton said on Wednesday the commissioners would investigate Zienty's background and decide whether he should be on the council. Sutton said he didn't have an issue during the nomination hearing over the number of years that Zienty had lived in the community as a reason to withhold his nomination.

Sutton said he wanted the commissioners to do their due diligence on every nomination to learn more about the nominees' backgrounds and decide if they are best qualified to serve on the council. Sutton said he believes that Zienty has showed through his charges of discrimination against the commissioners that he wouldn't be the best person to serve on the council.

Commissioner Linda Massey was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.



Source: (c)2013 Times-News (Burlington, N.C.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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