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Human relations agency denies activist's claim

Officials at a state agency that handles discrimination complaints say they did not decline to investigate a complaint filed against a black public official.

The Florida Commission on Human Relations merely asked for additional information so it could act, spokeswoman Virginia Newman said Friday.

Eugene Danaher, a civic activist from Tallahassee, has accused the commission of being racially biased in favor of blacks. He says the agency staff is dominated by black employees who have not been willing to investigate the conduct of black public officials.

Newman said Danaher's complaint against a black official accused of sexual harassment was not pursued because the agency needed more information before it could investigate.

After initially declining to discuss Danaher's complaint, Newman released a copy of a letter the commission sent to Danaher on Oct. 30. In that letter, the commission offered to investigate the complaint if the women who alleged sexual harassment would file formal complaints.

Newman said Derrick Daniel, the new director of the agency, is attempting to diversify the staff. Since June, the number of full-time black employees has decreased from 41 to 35. Black part-time employees have decreased from eight to five.

"Only 52 percent of our employees are black," Newman said. "That is down from 70 percent."

Newman said the agency does not count Haitian employees as black.

Danaher contends that the proportion of black employees is out of kilter in a state that is more than 65 percent white and has more Hispanics than blacks.