SUMMARY OF: A Special Report on the Office of the Governor, Alaska State Commission for Human Rights (ASCHR), Selected Operational Issues, September 23, 2011

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 of the Alaska Statutes and a special request by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, we have conducted a performance audit of ASCHR to determine: (1) if ASCHR investigates all complaints received; (2) if ASCHR investigates complaints timely; (3) how many and what types of complaints are investigated; how many days it takes to resolve a complaint; and the reasons for delayed resolutions; (4) if complaint investigations take longer for different races; (5) remedies or protections available for retaliated complaints and their effectiveness; (6) if investigators are qualified and trained; and (7) if ASCHR is meeting its statutory obligations and legislative purposes.

Report Conclusions

Based on our audit, we determined:

  • ASCHR is investigating complaints received, but not timely.
  • Complainants’ race/ethnicity is not a factor in the timeliness of investigations.
  • It is inconclusive if remedies are effective against eradicating or preventing discrimination.
  • ASCHR investigators are qualified and receive on-the-job training.
  • ASCHR is not meeting all of its statutory obligations and legislative purposes.

Findings and Recommendations

Recommendation No. 1

The legislature should consider establishing statutory timelines for ASCHR.

From the calendar years 2008 through 2010, approximately 75% of ASCHR discrimination complaints took over 180 days from the complaint-filed date to the determination date. In addition to the investigation timeframe, complaints were also delayed in the hearing process. We recommend the legislature establish a statutory timeline of 180 days for ASCHR to complete a complaint investigation and for the Office of Administrative Hearing to issue a decision within 120 days.

Recommendation No. 2

ASCHR’s executive director should improve and develop comprehensive policies, procedures and regulations to ensure complaint investigations are performed timely, and submit them to the commission for adoption.

Many factors contributed to ASCHR not promptly processing complaints. ASCHR should ensure its investigations are operating efficiently and effectively by analyzing and improving processes, updating regulations, developing comprehensive policies and procedures, and using current technologies.

Recommendation No. 3

The legislature should consider realigning ASCHR’s mission.

Due to length of investigations, ASCHR is not able to operate as “more than a simple complaint taking bureau” as the legislature intended. If ASCHR is unable to find ways to improve the timeliness of investigations to full the legislative mandate “to seek out and eradicate discrimination,” the legislature should consider reevaluating ASCHR’s mission to improve ASCHR’s workload and resource issues. Additionally, ASCHR’s statutes could be modified to improve its annual report by using it to provide ongoing and public monitoring of the timeliness of investigations and the level of activity performed by ASCHR to specifically seek out and eradicate discrimination.