Federal File: Accusations at Justice; Extraneous Activity; New Hill Task Force

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Timothy M. Cook, a staff attorney in the Justice Department's civil-rights division, last week accused the department of refusing to enforce the nation's anti-discrimination laws and charged Attorney General William French Smith with attempting to "distort and obfuscate the true record of meager enforcement" of those laws.

In a formal 33-page resignation statement that represents perhaps the strongest attack to date by an insider on the Adminstration's civil-rights policies, the 29-year-old lawyer charged the department with "abdicating its responsibility" for enforcing the rights of the handicapped and treating blacks and other minorities as "the new enemy" in civil-rights cases.

In the extensively footnoted statement, Mr. Cook accused the Justice Department of "half-heartedly" pursuing new cases "to create an illusion of effective enforcement" and of "watering down" its positions in existing cases.

He also cited internal department documents suggesting that the head of the civil-rights division, Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, has aggressively sought to bar minorities from participating in desegregation suits.

The director of the Education Department's regional office in Denver told a Cheyenne, Wyo., civic group recently that education is an "extraneous activity" of the federal government, one that is better left to state and local governments.

Thomas G. Tancredo also told the group that, if anything, the federal role in education "is a detriment and a hindrance" to the quality of education. In an interview, he cited P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, as an example of a detrimental federal education initiative.

Mr. Tancredo's staff, which has been reduced from 220 to 68 within the past two years, administers Education Department programs in six states: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

With education policy on the front burner politically these days, 30 Republican Congressmen have established an education policy task force to help them come to terms with the issues and provide them a forum for their views on the subject.

The members of the new group, formed by Representative Steve Bartlett, Republican of Texas, have an interest in education matters but lack a vehicle to express it because few of them sit on the House's education committees, according to Rebecca Campoverde, an aide to Representative Bartlett who helps staff the task force.

The task force, co-chaired by Mr. Bartlett and Representative Nancy L. Johnson, Republican of Connecticut, was scheduled to hold its first hearing this week. Terrel H. Bell, Secretary of Education, and others will testify on efforts by school systems to promote excellence in education.--tt

Vol. 03, Issue 08

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