Mr. Thomas Mann, Jr. took charge of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission staff on July 1, 1976. Governor Ray appointed Mr. Mann pursuant to new authority given to him through an amendment to the Iowa Civil Rights Act passed by the sixty-fifth session of the Iowa legislature. Formerly, the Governor appointed only the seven member commission who then had the power to hire a director; now the Governor appoints both. Mr. Mann replaced Joseph Tate whose position the Governor declared vacant after the legislature passed the new amendment.
Mr. Mann is a native of Haywood County in western Tennessee. He attended high school in Denmark, Tennessee (1967) and took his college years in Nashville at Tennessee State University where he graduated with a B.S.;degree in political science (1971). During part of his college years he worked as a Student Assistant at the Office of Education within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington, D.C. He then began a very active and successful legal education at the University of Iowa's School of Law. After receiving his law degree, Mann joined the Iowa Department of Justice. As an Assistant Attorney General Mann handled employment discrimination cases and argued criminal appeals cases before the Iowa Supreme Court. At age 26 Mann was one of the youngest directors of a state civil rights agency in the nation.
During the time that Mr. Mann has been with the commission there have been some notable changes in the operation of the agency. The quality of investigations has improved in the last two years. We can point to the increased number of cases proceeding to public hearing and litigation as evidence. Some of the increase in court actions springs from complainants appealing a no probable cause decision of the commission. However, there are still consider-ably more cases than in past years that are entering the courts to seek enforcement of an order issued by the commission at public hearing. Some of us in the agency remember when a public hearing was an event because there were so few. Today we are proud to say public hearings are the routine business of the commission.
The front line personnel of the agency, the investigators, deserve ample credit for the improved quality of their work. Other factors, developed during the time Mr. Mann has been at the commission, have also contributed. The training program, which all incoming staff consistently receive, has been an important factor. The trainee gets a concentrated two-week classroom session. Following this is a longer on-the-job training (OJT) which the trainees' supervisor directs. Another factor which has promoted better quality is a more intensified effort on the part of supervisors to meet and discuss cases with the investigators. This has been not only a good means of quality control, but also a good learning experience for the investigator. Review procedures are now more formalized. For example, the management team as a group reviews every probable cause finding coming out of the agency.
We have had harmonious relationships between our Director and the members of the commission. The same is true among commission members themselves. To be quite frank and without laying blame, we can say simply that harmony has not always existed in the past. Mr. Mann has fostered good working relationships between himself and the rest of the staff as well. That statement might seem to contradict the rate of turnover of staff as discussed in the Compliance section of this report. However, most of that turnover was due to the phasing in and phasing out of our VISTA program. A certain amount of disruption is a necessary concomitant to that kind of staff movement. But on balance the two years have been marked internally by useful changes and a welcome harmony.
Externally, the visibility of the agency has increased. A greater number of public proceedings, a report of housing research, declaratory rulings and issuing new administrative rules have all had an influence in giving the agency greater exposure. Fortunately, along with the visibility has come improved credibility as well. Treatment by the media and the respect for the authority of the commission afforded by respondents in negotiations, public hearings and court actions are both indicative.
Another significant development during Mr. Mann's term as director has been the growth of support at the grassroots level. There are several ways by which we are able to draw this conclusion. Expressions of support by the people themselves especially at public forums held prior to some commission meetings is one gauge. Expressions of support from people at other public gatherings and conferences, such as various speaking engagements and the Iowa Civil Rights Leadership Conference, is another. A third measure by which we draw that conclusion - and this is a significant development in and of itself - is our success in the legislature.
Despite having a rather tight ceiling on spending, the legislature allocated an increase of $88,000 to the commission in the last General Assembly. We reiterate our gratitude to the members of the legislature for this investment. In addition, the members of that body passed and the Governor signed House File 2390, enhancing the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Without in any way diminishing the hard work of the House, the Senate and the Governor, we believe that public support was an important ingredient in the passage of that law.
Internally we have experienced cooperation and have yielded a quality work product under Mr. Mann's leadership. Externally we have cultivated more credibility and support from the public.