Civil-Rights Panel Demands To View U.S Agency Records
Washington--The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has warned President Reagan that it will issue subpoenas to officials in several federal agencies, including the Education Department, if they fail by April 25 to respond to requests for data on the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
According to commission staff members, the independent rights-monitoring agency has never in its 26-year history found it necessary to use its subpoena power to obtain documents from the federal government. High-level Administration officials said last week that they plan to cooperate with the commission's investigations, thus reducing the probability that the subpoenas will be issued.
In a letter to the President dated March 14, the panel's chairman, Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., said that federal foot-dragging on a number of routine information requests has forced the commission "to develop plans to issue subpoenas for specific information we either have been unable to secure by other means or have reason to believe may not be delivered in a timely manner."
Lax in Their Responsibility
The Education Department figures prominently among those federal agencies that have been lax in their responsibility to provide the commission with information, according to documents attached to the letter sent to the President.
For example, commission staff members reported that when they asked department officials to inform the panel about the government's position in a Title IX-related case decided last year, University of Richmond v. Bell, they were told to "read The Washington Post.'
Furthermore, the staff claimed that the department had failed to respond to additional queries on other Title IX-related cases and had not returned "repeated telephone calls" concerning other Title IX data.
The staff also alleged that it took the department five months to respond to a letter regarding civil-rights protections under the new education block grants to states.
They also said that the department's civil-rights officials said they would not provide the commission with "management indicators" that it received routinely in the past until the department's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Harry M. Singleton, approves the office's annual report, a document that was submitted to him "several months ago."
The commission has also made complaints about the White House staff, the Office of Management and Budget, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and several other departments and agencies.
Trouble Obtaining Information
According to Mr. Pendleton's letter, the commission was particularly upset that the President failed to respond to an earlier letter, dated Jan. 10, stating that the panel's staff was having trouble obtaining information from the White House staff on the race, sex, and ethnic origin of Presidential appointees.
According to the first letter to the President, the commission had re-quested the data on the appointees a year earlier. "My colleagues and I now feel that you should know that this was but one example of a growing pattern of difficulties the commission is encountering," Mr. Pendleton said in his subsequent letter to Mr. Reagan. "Continuing efforts, on our part, to improve cooperation between the commission and other agencies have not altered this situation."
Mr. Pendleton said that commission staff members are now preparing final requests for the data they seek. "We hope that our final efforts to obtain that information will be successful and that formal proceedings may prove unnecessary," he said. But if the requests are not met, the federal officials will be forced to present those documents at a hearing before the commission next month, he said in his letter.