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 operations of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is entrusted to the Executive Director; serving in that position throughout Fiscal Year 1987 was Inga Bumbary-Langston. Aiding her in the pursuit of the mission to eliminate discrimination were the seven commissioners, responsible for key policymaking and final contested case decision-making, as well as Commission staff - thirty employees and volunteers who worked as secretaries/receptionists, word processors, intakers, mediators/conciliators, investigators, hearing officers, and compliance managers.
The "Expert System."
In June 1986, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission received a grant from
the Iowa Lawyers' Trust Account Commission for over $23,000. These funds
were designated for the research and development of a "Civil Rights
Advisory Expert System," in the field of employment discrimination.
An "expert system"
is a computer software system designed to assist individuals in problem-solving
tasks. After the awarding of the grant, the Commission contracted with the
Department of Industrial Management, University of Iowa, for the research
and development of a "Civil Rights Advisory Expert System." The
Commission worked closely with the University during the year on the System's
development. When Fiscal Year 1987 closed, preliminary design and format
of the system had been completed.
During June 1987, the Commission
was awarded a "continuation" grant from the Iowa Lawyers' Trust
Account Commission for over $48,000. These funds were used to purchase computer
hardware for the Commission and ten (10) local Iowa human rights agencies
who have agreed to take part in the "Expert System Project." These
funds will also enable personnel from the participating agencies to be trained
in the use and maintenance of the System.
The "Civil Rights Advisory
Expert System" promises to make Iowa a leader in the use of artificial
intelligence for civil rights enforcement agencies.
The "Task Force."
In August 1986, Inga Bumbary-Langston was appointed by Governor Terry
Branstad to the position of Executive Director of the Iowa Civil Rights
Commission. She requested, in conjunction with the Department of Management,
an "administrative review" of the agency. The purpose of the review
was to assist her in quickly obtaining an overview of the agency, its strengths
and weaknesses, and to secure a series of recommendations that she could
use in setting her agenda for the agency, in setting short and longterm
goals and objectives. It was also her thought that such a review, conducted
at the agency's request by trained, objective management staff, would allow
her to prioritize suggestions in a proactive way, rather than in a more
reactive mode as had occurred historically.
Ms. Bumbary-Langston assembled
experienced managers from various departments of state government to conduct
the administrative review. The Administrative Review Team focused on seven
(7) areas: (1) administration, (2) structure, (3) personnel, (4) process,
(5) tracking/reporting, (6) cost of public hearings, and (7) long-range
After a careful and thoughtful
review process, the Administrative Review Team made many recommendations
designed to make the Commission more effective and efficient. Many of the
recommendations were implemented; and preliminary results have indicated
a very positive impact.
Late in Fiscal Year 1987, Ms. Bumbary-Langston formed a team of Commission staff persons to review the agency's current case processing methodology and to recommend changes/modifications to improve productivity. Some of the changes/modifications implemented included: redesigning the intake system to permit more experienced staff to initially evaluate the validity of "proposed" complaints, tightening the criteria for screening/ evaluating complaints at the "administrative review" step in the process; defining the backlog as all open cases filed before July 1, 1987; forming a unit of four (4) investigators to investigate only designated backlog cases, and utilizing a "board" system on all new cases which calls for complete investigations within six (6) months of filing.