The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is a state administrative agency responsible for enforcing the "Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965," the state's anti-discrimination statute.
Management of the day-to-day operation of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is entrusted to the executive director; serving in that position throughout Fiscal Year 1988 was Inga Bumbary- Langston. Aiding her in the pursuit of the mission to eliminate discrimination were the seven commissioners who are responsible for key policy-making and final contested case decis io nmaking, Ms. Bumbary-Langston directed an office staff of 30 employees and volunteers who worked as secretaries, receptionists, word processors, intake officers, mediators/conciliators, investigators, hearing officers, and compliance managers.
The "Expert System." In June 1986, ICRC received a grant of over $23,000 from the Iowa Lawyers Trust Account for the research and development of a "Civil Rights Advisory Expert System" in the field of employment discrimination.
The system was developed under contract with the Department of Industrial Management, University of Iowa, and by the end of Fiscal Year 1987, preliminary design and format of the system had been completed. In June 1987 the Commission was awarded a continuation grant of over $48,000 from the same source. These funds were used to purchasecomputer hardware for ICRC and 10 local Iowa human rights agencies.
During Fiscal Year 1988, the project was accomplished by the completion of the system prototype and the training of the staff from the participating agencies in the use of the system. The system now requires a more sophisticated and current update. In the meantime, staff makes use of the computer library of source documents and the word processing functions of the computers.
The "Task Force." In Fiscal Year 1987, the commission's newly-appointed executive director, Inga Bumbary-Langston, requested an "administrative review" of the agency. The purpose was to assist her in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the agency, along with proposing recommendations for setting short-term and long-term goals and objectives.
The Administrative Review Team, made up of experienced managers from other state agencies, focused on the areas of administration, structure, personnel, process, tracking/ reporting, cost of public hearings, and long-range concepts. The team made recommendations designed to make the commission more efficient.
Several of these recommendations were implemented during Fiscal Year 1988. For example, the intake system has been redesigned to permit more experienced personnel to initially evaluate the validity of proposed claims. This has resulted in a 60% decrease in the number of contacts that become complaints, as compared to the previous rate of 90-95% of the contacts becoming a filed complaint.
The administrative review process, or initial complaint screening, has become more stringent from the perspective of timeliness and standards. The complaints are now screened within 70 days of filing. The substantive standard for screening is stricter, and only about one third of cases that are filed are screened in for further investigation.
The commission has designated approximately 750 cases filed prior to July 1, 1987, as its backlog. These cases have been separated and targeted for resolution. Since July 1, 1987, determinations have been made on approximately 100 of these cases. No additional cases will be added to this backlog.
All cases filed since July 1, 1987, which have survived the initial screening, are scheduled for immediate investigation. Current staffing allocations permit 32 such cases to be completed per month. These cases are targeted to be completed within 180 days of filing.
The Commission has consolidated its Mediation/Conciliation functions, which resulted in a greater number of complaints being voluntarily settled and in a 40% increase in dollars being returned to Iowans because of possible discriminatory conduct.
The commission resolved 286 more complaints than were filed in Fiscal Year 1988. The administrative changes also reduced the time required to process cases, which resulted in an increase of $99,000 in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) contract with the commission. The productivity improvement resulted in the commission being recognized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as Region VII's Most Improved Fair Housing Agency.