employment

Discrimination and Diversity Watchdog to Get New Chair After 4-Year Vacancy

Dianne Morales is expected to be named the new chair of the Equal Employment Practices Commission, THE CITY has learned.
Dianne Morales is expected to be named the new chair of the Equal Employment Practices Commission, THE CITY has learned. Photo: Courtesy of Dianne Morales

Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to soon fill a longstanding key vacancy at the city’s discrimination and diversity watchdog, according to multiple sources.

The chair of the Equal Employment Practices Commission, which THE CITY recently reported had been empty for four years, is slated to be filled by Dianne Morales, CEO of the antipoverty nonprofit Phipps Neighborhoods, the sources said.

The joint appointment with Council Speaker Corey Johnson is part of a flurry of high-level staff moves by de Blasio aimed at leaving a fuller administrative team in place in City Hall should he announce a 2020 run for The White House.

The mayor said on Tuesday that presidential decision will be made sometime this month, but not this week.

The decades-old independent body known as the EEPC has been functioning without a chairperson since March 2015. Officials have given no explanation for the lapse.

The EEPC is charged with auditing the hiring and employment practices of more than 140 city agencies and offices every four years. Last year, the commission launched a four-year cycle of audits of the sexual harassment policies of those same entities.

“We should shine a spotlight on all of that,” Councilmember Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equity, said of the EEPC’s mission. “I hope a new chair will give the commission a louder mouthpiece.”

Separation of Powers Disagreement

In recent months, the City Council has been battling with the EEPC in a longstanding dispute about the commission’s jurisdiction, which Council officials maintain doesn’t extend to the legislative branch.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson has said the disagreement dates back to 2006.

“The issue here is about separation of powers,” Johnson said during an unrelated news conference at City Hall Wednesday. “We feel like it’s important that we maintain a level of independence.”

The commission has struggled at times to assert its authority since it was established in 1989.

But the EEPC is credited with raising questions in the early 2000s about racial disparities at the Fire Department, which eventually led to changes to its entrance exam.

Morales said she has no plans to serve as a mere figurehead.

“Given some of the issues that are on the table, I have every intention of raising the profile of these topics and taking them head on,” Morales, a longtime Brooklyn resident, told THE CITY. “These are serious things I’m not going to shy away from.”

A Flurry of Appointments

As for the mayor’s staffing blitz, the past six weeks have seen the appointment of five new commissioners, a deputy mayor and multiple department heads.

The list of recent appointments includes:

• March 28: Omar Khan as director of the Public Engagement Unit.

• April 4: Vicki Been as Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development.

• April 9: Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez as commissioner of the Department of Aging.

• April 15: Jackie Bray as director of the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants.

• April 17: Anne del Castillo as commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

• April 23: John Paul Farmer as chief technology officer, along with eight appointees to a new Civic Engagement Commission.

• April 24: Noah Genel as commissioner of the Business Integrity Commission.

• April 26: Five new members to the Rent Guidelines Board.

• April 29: Melissa Browne as director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Projects and Community Events.

May 2: Louise Carroll as commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

• May 6: Melanie La Rocca as commissioner of the Department of Buildings.

On Friday, the de Blasio administration announced that two mayoral staffers — Olivia Lapeyrolerie and Alexandra Kopel — were taking leave to join the mayor’s national Fairness PAC.

That political action committee funded de Blasio’s and his wife Chirlane McCray’s travels to support state and national candidates in the November 2018 elections, and has also supported some of those candidates directly.

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