Leo Cardenas

9/7/99

Topics Addressed in this interview

Question:
When did you begin working as a mediator or conciliation specialist at CRS?

Answer:
In February of 1971.

Question:
When did you leave the agency?

Answer:
I retired in November of 1995.

Question:
What were you doing prior to joining CRS?

Answer:
I was a newspaper editor for the San Antonio Express.

Question:
Were you involved in any other civil rights organizations or mediation work before CRS?

Answer:
At the time I belonged to LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens in San Antonio.

Question:
So what is it that attracted you to CRS?

Answer:
I think it was that CRS was attracted to me. At the time, CRS was concentrating a lot of efforts on preventive programs. One was in the area of media. CRS was concerned that there were very few minorities in the media, particularly in the electronic media -- radio and TV. As far as I could tell, I was the only Hispanic in a management position with print media, with the San Antonio Express, a newspaper. And so CRS recruited me. At the time Gil Pompa was a CRS assistant director. I had worked as a police reporter at the police station in San Antonio for several years, at the same time Gil Pompa was a prosecutor for the city. That's how we met.

Question:
So why did you decide that you wanted to work there?

Answer:
They recruited me -- they made me an offer I couldn't refuse. First of all the money was very good, and second it offered an opportunity that I didn't even know existed. The idea that I could help more minorities work with the media was very attractive to me.

Question:
Now I want you to focus a little bit more specifically. Pick one case that you were involved in and sort of walk us through the stages -- how you became involved, who you talked to, what was the conflict and how was it resolved... You can choose anything.

Answer:
Why don't we concentrate on that particular area [media] now and then move forward. I still find it very interesting. At the time that I was initially contacted, CRS was going throughout the country and conducting media workshops with editors and assistant editors in both the print and the electronic media. I happened to be invited to one workshop that was conducted at the University of St. Mary's. The idea was that individuals -- minority community leaders and editors -- would sit down for a day, or a day and a half, to explore why minorities were not in the media. Also, CRS had a goal to improve the coverage of the minority community. That happened a year and a half before I was recruited. I was recruited to work out of the Dallas office and one of the areas that I covered was Denver, Colorado. Prior to my coming on board, Denver had had a similar meeting between minority organizations and the media. As a result of that meeting, the minority community organizations were able to come together and focus on the media. One of the areas the Denver community leaders focused on, or one of the targets, shall I say, was McGraw Hill. McGraw Hill, at the time, owned several television stations. I began working with the conciliators who were assigned to the Denver office, Wilbur Reed, and Manny Salinas, and with the community group and also with McGraw Hill. As a result of a series of meetings with the community group and with McGraw Hill, eventually they sat down at the table, and CRS mediated an agreement. At the time, we thought it was heaven on earth, because the total amount of money that was committed by McGraw Hill was one million dollars. Now this was 1971, and one million dollars then is a billion dollars today. McGraw Hill and the community group agreed on that amount to be spent over a five year period.

Question:
I want you to back up and tell us about who you contacted first before you went on-site. How did you make initial contact? What were the interests of each group? And proceed through to the table, how you got to the table.

Answer:
As I mentioned, the initial contacts had been made by the field office conciliators. They had actually worked the beginning of the case. When I came on board in February of 1971, the regional director assigned me to this case almost immediately. I made a trip to Denver and met with the community groups, with the conciliators assigned to the case, and then with officials of McGraw Hill based in Denver. Eventually, officials from McGraw Hill's national headquarters came to Denver for negotiations.

Question:
Who was the community group?

Answer:
The community group was composed of more than 30 non-profit volunteer groups, Hispanic, black, and Indian.

Question:
Were they the ones that initiated this issue, or was it CRS who said, "I think it would be useful if we got more minorities in the media"? Who came up with that fundamental idea?

Answer:
The idea of holding these meetings was CRS's idea. Initially it was nationwide and then the field offices were encouraged to talk to community groups about the idea of holding such meetings. CRS sponsored the initial meetings.

Question:
What kind of community groups are we talking about?

Answer:
The group included representatives from LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), the American GI Forum, and locally, LARASA (Latin American Research and Service Agency). From the black side, the NAACP and the Urban League, and on the Native American side, the Indian Center. And there were others. It also included student groups at the universities..... more than thirty groups eventually.

Question:
Now when you say that you had that initial meeting with both groups, how did you know who to contact initially to set up those meetings?

Answer:
I personally did not. I was simply introduced as someone who had experience in the media. My title at the time was Media Specialist, so I came in as a so-called expert, having expertise from the inside of the media and having expertise as a manager.

Question:
Did all the parties want you to become involved? Did they welcome your expertise in that area?

Answer:
To the best of my recollection, there was very little resistance, which I found surprising, particularly from the media side. All of my expertise at the time was with the printed media, and not with the electronic media, and the concentration here in Denver was on the electronic media.

Question:
So you expected them to be a little more reluctant?

Answer:
I expected a little more resistance to the idea, but by that time the meeting, the initial day to day-and-a-half meeting, had occurred so some of those barriers were already broken down by then.

Question:
So had you already set up your game plan and how you wanted to proceed before you actually got on-site, or is it something that you designed in Denver?

Answer:
I was initially briefed over the telephone by both Manny Salinas and Wilbur Reed and they gave me a lot of background, including names, names which didn't mean anything to me at the time. And of course eventually I would put the faces to the names and their backgrounds.

Question:
Now did that help you to prepare your course of action for the meeting, by giving that background information?

Answer:
Little question about that. Otherwise I wouldn't have had any idea, other than I had had the experience of having participated in a similar meeting, but at that time, I participated as a media manager, not as a -- I'm not even sure we used the word "mediator" -- at the time.

Question:
What was your initial assessment after receiving that background information from the two people in CRS? What was you initial assessment of the conflict that existed and what were the interests of the groups?

Answer:
The facts as they were presented to me, indicated that there were very few, if any, minorities in the media at the time. But there was interest on the part of the media, particularly the electronic media. And let me back this up a little bit by saying that at the time, the FCC had changed some of its rules about license renewal. If my memory serves me correctly, it used to be that the licenses were renewed almost automatically every five years, and then it was changed to every three years; then it was changed, eventually, to every year. So part of the "bait", if you will, on the part of CRS, was that by meeting with the minority community, the electronic media would be more likely to get their license renewed. So there was that interest on the part of electronic media that did not exist on the part of the printed media. The printed media had no licensing at all.

Question:
So they weren't at all involved in these conversations?

Answer:
They were, but there was no regulation of the printed media, so they had less incentive.

Question:
Why were the print media then interested?

Answer:
They were interested because we encouraged them to participate and to take a lead in such an effort, because their numbers showed that they had little to no one from the minority community. And they, themselves, were interested in bringing in minority applicants for employment.

Question:
So they realized that it was a problem?

Answer:
Yes, they did.

Question:
Were the initial meetings during your intervention always private or did you bring them together to talk at the same time?

Answer:
No. They were always private and always apart until we got to the point that we started working on a series of issues, and in between we were simply going between one group and the other. And eventually we got them together, if my memory again serves me correctly, we had at least three meetings before we finally had a signature.

Question:
And this all took place in a day and a half?

Answer:
No. The day-and-a-half meeting was the initial exploratory meeting sponsored by CRS. And CRS also got universities and the media to be co-sponsors. The meeting was highly structured. Usually, it started with a keynote address by someone in the media, and then face-to-face meetings between the two groups. Actually, a lot of venting would go on in those meetings.

Question:
Was that public or private?

Answer:
Those were public.

Question:
When you were dealing privately with each of the two groups, what was going on, what were the discussions about?

Answer:
There was still a lot of venting, and there were a lot of wish lists as to what should come out of it. There was definitely a misconception on the part of the minority community as to the nature of the media itself. The media was certainly seen as providing a service and not seen as a business. This was one of the issues that were clarified through this series of meetings -- that the media, first and foremost, was a business, and even though the editorial side of the media deals with the public, there is the business side, without which the media couldn't exist.

Question:
And who brought that to the attention of the community groups?

Answer:
I did a lot of that with the community groups initially. That's where my expertise was. We also had national media experts who, by the time I came on board, had been throughout the country, participating in negotiations of this sort.

Question:
Were there any others present besides you and the community groups, or you and McGraw Hill, during your individual meetings or did you have the person that you just mentioned in those meetings?

Answer:
We brought them in on more than one occasion.

Question:
Was that typical of how you handled your cases?

Answer:
It was typical of how CRS handled the cases because I was very new. And it was actually new, even to CRS.

Question:
So getting back to those parts of the meetings that you held, you started to tell us about some of the misconceptions that the community groups had. What were some of the other misconceptions?

Answer:
The other misconception was that on one hand, they did not consider the media to be a business, but on the other hand, community groups thought that they had a lot of money, because they were major corporations. And as this unfolded, the community groups focused on the one with the biggest resources, which at the time was McGraw Hill. Also, McGraw Hill had five TV stations, so it carried a lot of power.

Question:
Once you started talking with the parties who were involved, did you find anyone within the community group who was sort of skeptical of your role? You mentioned that you expected the print media, or part of the media to be a little tentative of your intervention, but did you find anyone in the community group also?

Answer:
Oh yes. Initially it was at best lukewarm. They didn't know who I was. Actually I was hanging, if you will, on the reputation of the two conciliators who had been here for some time. They gave me some credibility as a so-called "expert."

Question:
So none of the parties were reluctant to meet with you?

Answer:
I don't think that I ever met with them individually. It was always either or both of them, both Salinas and Reed were with me all the time.

Question:
After you made that first contact with the group and talked with them, did you still find it necessary to have one of those two people there?

Answer:
There was more formality to the process than I was used to. First of all, I was used to working by myself, and not as a team member. At the meetings that I attended here in Denver, particularly with the community groups and with the media, our conciliators would open the meetings and would initially conduct them with some rules of order and with an agenda. These meetings generally lasted no more than an hour and a half. And then after that, sometimes we would meet with someone and have a meal and/or a drink individually.

Question:
How did you decide when to bring the group together?

Answer:
By the time I came to Denver, the community groups had on their agenda, issues such as, of course, more hiring of minorities. Since the colleges and universities were also involved, scholarships were also on the table. The idea of mentoring and the counseling was also on the table. Internships became a key issue. Another benefit was that this was the first time that this many organizations had gotten together under one umbrella and had been successful at staying together because of the focus and the common interests.

Question:
What's the time span that you're talking?

Answer:
It moved very quickly, I suspect it was six months from the time of my involvement to signature. Because I came in during February, and if my memory serves me correctly, then that agreement was signed, like, sometime in June.

Question:
Were the community groups you were working with already educated as to putting their issues together, or did you help them facilitate and help them put them together?

Answer:
Actually, the two conciliators in Denver helped them draft their issues, and by the time I came on, the main issues were already on the table.

Question:
So in this particular case, you were simply the media specialist?

Answer:
The media specialist, and eventually the so-called expert. They saw me as the expert who could bring the media side to the table and be a full participant. Up to that time, while there was participation, the community group was very skeptical about their participation and whether it would lead anywhere or not.

Question:
How were you able to bring the media side to the table?

Answer:
Well, on one side (this was again surprising to me), recognition of the fact that I brought some expertise to the table, that I had immediately before been a manager, and managed an operation within the media. I was able to speak their business language.

Question:
Did you do any arm-twisting, by saying, "Look, it'll be better for you to do this because you will get these benefits down the road"?

Answer:
There was particular arm twisting when the people from the national office of McGraw came to town. Because again, they thought that by coming to town, they were coming to share a meal, do some public relations, and go back home. And that was not the case at all in terms of what the community group had in mind or what CRS had in mind at the time. And before they left, actually, there were not signatures, but there was an agreement. Eventually, lawyers looked at it and made some changes, but in the end, it came back with signatures.

Question:
You talked just a few minutes ago about how you were able to speak the language of the authorities, and that tells me that you were able to establish some level of trust. How important is trust in your role, and how were you able to develop it in this case?

Answer:
Trust is everything. You know sometimes, as mediators, or even in some other roles, if we don't assume that we know enough about the subject, and about the common interests, it is not there. I always assume that one of the reasons I was hired was because I brought certain skills and expertise to the table and then I was just sort of thrown into the lion's den rather quickly and was able to perform really well.

Question:
Now I'm sure that you have some special techniques that you were able to use. You said that you were able to speak the language and so that made them feel comfortable with you. Give us an example of what type of languages were you using, what things were said, and when?

Answer:
Talking to the media officials' side, I was able to convince them that I did know the community. I was able to tell my own story of how I went to school, how I got to the university and why I got to the university, and eventually graduated, and what I had done to become, you know at the time, the only Hispanic in a management position. That I think was impressive to them and the fact that I showed a lot of honesty as to what the positions of the minority community were and what the consequences would be if something else came out -- a different outcome.

Question:
And what were some of those consequences?

Answer:
The fact that some of them would not get their licenses renewed, which means that they would be out of business. Some of them also, even then, some were in the process of obtaining radio stations from one company and a possible outcome was that that sale might not go through. And so the consequences were enormous in terms of dollars there.

Question:
What were the terms, generally, of the agreement? I'm sure you don't remember this exactly, but what were some of them?

Answer:
Like I said, the one thing that sticks out to me was that it was a five-year program; we also said publicly that it was a one million dollar program.

Question:
What was the money going to be used for?

Answer:
One thing the money would be used for was scholarships.

Question:
Scholarships for minorities?

Answer:
Scholarships at universities, in this case, in the state of Colorado. Not only in the state of Colorado, but in the other four cities where McGraw Hill also had television stations. There were also hiring goals over a five-year period. One of the points of agreement was that each of the stations would hire a minority manager that would work as a liaison with the minority community to manage minority programs and air time. At the time, there was a popular show called "Talking Heads" which was a talk show. This show gave minorities experience in the media. Not only before the camera, or before the microphone, but also behind, working the cameras and doing the writing.

Question:
Getting back to the trust issue. Do you think that your own race, or ethnicity, or gender played any significant part?

Answer:
It played a very significant role. Little question about that, because what was at stake was the fact that few or no minorities were in the media. Minorities were playing almost no roles, and the fact that here was someone who had broken through those barriers and was able to talk to them made an impact.

Question:
What types of things specifically were you able to do to sustain the trust level over the six month period?

Answer:
A lot of it was done locally. I was actually stationed in Dallas. The agency was able to identify other minorities who at the time were just starting in the media, but had actually hosted minority programming. Another example was that we were able to bring some minority writers to the meetings and explain the benefits of minority programs, and that minorities would listen to such programs. So we were able to work with the minority group, and eventually, they were able to show that the type of proposals that were on the table were realistic -- that it would be a benefit to everyone.

Question:
Now had you mapped out a goal prior to becoming involved in the case, or did it sort of develop as you went?

Answer:
Like I said, I was thrown onto the fire a week after I came on board.

Question:
So you just went with it for the six-month period?

Answer:
Yes. The closest thing to an experience was the fact that I attended a day-and-a-half conference in San Antonio.

Question:
One of the things we've been talking about a lot with other people are power disparities between the minority community and the majority community and how CRS helps the minority community build up power. Did you do that in this case?

Answer:
We call it balancing the table so that the table is even and there is recognition about the power and the stature of the parties. Up until then, there was no such recognition. The organizations, individually, did have a lot of history, but collectively, the groups had never come together. I don't believe they had never thought that there might be strength in coming together on this particular issue.

Question:
The key thing that gave them power was bringing them together?

Answer:
Yes. The CRS conciliators spent a lot of time coalescing the community groups. But they did a tremendous job.

Question:
Did they have a lot of work to do to keep this group together?

Answer:
A lot of work. One of the reasons that it was particularly successful in Denver, and not in other communities, was the fact that very early on, the groups themselves were able to find dollars, local resources. They hired an executive director, who spent a lot of time keeping the group together by typing points of agreement and disseminating them. This didn't happen in the minority community then, and it helped to clarify the goals of the groups.

Question:
Did the majority group from McGraw Hill have any outside technical assistance, or were they provided any technical assistance by you?

Answer:
No.

Question:
Okay.

Answer:
Other than eventually their lawyers.

Question:
After you gained credibility within the groups, or among the various groups, did either party ever ask you to do something that you were incapable of doing?

Answer:
There were many times, particularly in the electronic media, when I felt I had little expertise. I relied on Art Peltz, a national CRS communications specialist, who had that expertise. Individuals, by that time, had radio shows, and one or two had hosted perhaps a half-hour show at three o'clock in the morning on a Sunday or something. One of those talking heads shows.

Question:
Did the negotiation ever reach an impasse?

Answer:
It did at the very end when the officials from McGraw Hill at the national level came to Denver, and either did not realize or thought that they could just simply come to town and leave town without any commitment. And so there was a question, certainly in my mind, and in the minds of both Wilbur Reed and Manny Salinas as to whether we actually had an agreement or not. We thought we did, and McGraw Hill came back with signed documents.

Question:
What did you do to hold it together?

Answer:
At that time, we waited, and then eventually, I got on the telephone and talked to their contact and eventually to an attorney. And the attorney asked a lot of questions that we were able to work out. And by that time, incidentally, the minority community group also had attorneys who, if my memory serves me correctly, worked with the NAACP and through MALDEF.

Question:
What's MALDEF?

Answer:
MALDEF is the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. And so, the final part of it was between the attorneys.

Question:
Were there any issues on the table that seemed non-negotiable? That either side was not willing to give up?

Answer:
I know there were some, I just can't remember them. It seemed like there were definitely quite a few.

Question:
From both sides?

Answer:
From both sides. Well, mostly on the community side.

Question:
What did you do with those issues? Did you just let them drop or did you try to work around them?

Answer:
Well, it was how the final agreement was worked. The fact that it had commitment for dollars, commitment for a certain period of time, and commitment for the hiring of someone that would work with the minority community on the development of those programs. This at least gave the appearance that these issues could be worked out in the future.

Question:
It seems like in this particular case the community groups were well organized, they had a fair amount of technical assistance and community resources. Did the majority group know about these other resources or did that ever become a conflict?

Answer:
They knew them individually, generally through public relations efforts on their part. And the other was that the leadership, particularly in Denver, was of the highest caliber. I mean these were people who were very well respected in the minority community. And for those egos, if you will, to come together on one issue was in itself a very high accomplishment.

Question:
Did they stay together afterwards for other purposes?

Answer:
They stayed together for at least two or three years and the agreement was carried out throughout the five year process. Minorities were hired at each station.

Question:
Did CRS have any long-term involvement in it, or did you leave after the settlement?

Answer:
No. While CRS had an office in Denver and had relationships with both parties, the reality is that CRS did not then, and does not now have the ability to do follow-up, except on a very limited basis.

Question:
Why's that?

Answer:
Lack of resources and, of course, staff.

Question:
How would you describe your work in terms of neutrality, impartiality, objectivity, in this particular case?

Answer:
We didn't know about it then. One of the things that I consider myself blessed with is that if the goal is clear, I'm focused on the goal and work the elements towards that goal. No one ever talked to me about neutrality, that I can recall. It was clear that we were certainly in the middle and that CRS was working both sides. No one questioned it, other than by innuendo or by personality clashes from time to time.

Question:
Did issues of fairness ever come up in the settlements?

Answer:
Fairness only to some degree. Let's say from the business side that we can't do that, or we don't have the money, or we don't have the resources, or it's not in our best interests. The community side was always saying they can afford it, there's no reason why they can't pay attention to it, there's no reason why they cannot do this and that.

Question:
And how did CRS handle that situation when one side is clearly saying you have the resources to do it and the other side says you don't. What were you able to do?

Answer:
By continuing to work on a realistic program. Certainly the goal was never to put a dollar sign to it, but to begin to set aside the issues, and eventually, (this is one of the beauties of mediations) both parties find common interests and begin working at it. The final product is something that no one can envision during the process, including CRS. And that's what happened here. They all worked at it and they all found a way as to what the final package ought to look like.

Question:
So in this particular case, you said you didn't know that much about it, you were just sort of thrown into it. Was there ever a time where it was difficult for you to remain objective and neutral, because it sounds as if you had something in common with both groups or all of the groups that were involved.

Answer:
No, because I didn't know any better. At the time, I think I need to point out, as I suspect others have, that CRS had very little in the way of training programs. At the time, the training programs consisted of an individual going to Washington and visiting the various offices and various individuals telling us what they did and the type of programs we were carrying out, and the fact that you were hired and that you brought certain expertise and that you were going to be a member of that team. That was it.

Question:
Were you able to detect any internal conflict that existed within the various coalitions?

Answer:
A lot. Yes. Typical of any group that has not been together, there is initial venting, a lot of agendas of which I had no knowledge, constantly hearing people tell me this individual has this agenda to do this or to do that, and what happens in those meetings and in those types of relationships is that you learn a lot. You're (in this case) the media expert. I learned a lot about the community and the individuals and what they bring to the table very quickly. Sometimes they do indeed have different agendas and because we know more than all of them put together, particularly the dynamics that are going on with the dispute, we're able to convince them to go different routes.

Question:
Was representation ever an issue? Who was going to be at the table and who wasn't?

Answer:
Clearly, we had to work the ethnicity out of it first, then the stature of the organization, how long they'd been in existence, because they were non-profit and volunteer groups. We were also interested in the type of leadership that they brought to the table.

Question:
You just said something very interesting, "You had to work the ethnicity out of it." How do you do that?

Answer:
Very carefully. First of all, by trying to bring equity to the table in terms of numbers -- numbers of the organizations. And one of the things that happened here and it happened in other cities, is bringing back to the table individuals who did not currently have a title with the organization, but had held a title before and were highly respected. We asked them to come to the table and be sort of senior, elder spokespeople and bring unity, and that worked very well.

Question:
Did you try to get equal numbers of each race, or did you try to do something proportionately?

Answer:
I think proportionate to the organizations who actually signed to be members of the coalition.

Question:
And this was open to anybody who wanted to be included?

Answer:
Correct.

Question:
So, what did you do when you realized that there were various agendas going on? How did you handle that situation? What were you able to do, specifically, to either address those or diffuse some of those variations?

Answer:
A lot of the effort was to find the commonality as to what the groups were seeking. A lot of that. And another one is, as I mentioned to you, even more difficult was to try to determine why people were actually at the table other than our own CRS encouragement. One of the things that played a significant role was the response that we were able to get from the media. Again, on the one side you had thirty some odd minority organizations, and on the other hand, you had thirty some odd media organizations, most of them being radio stations at the time. So all of a sudden, there was some equity in numbers. Then all of a sudden, there appeared to be some equity at the table because of the individuals who came to the table. They varied from meeting to meeting, but came to the table, brought in a lot of stature, some previous relationships, some acknowledgment that they indeed represented the community.

Question:
Previous relationships between whom?

Answer:
Between individuals who had headed the minority organizations, who were known, who had worked with the media on community organizations. Although we didn't call them that at the time, such as health fairs, for example. To the best of my recollection, the media didn't participate with the community at all. But nevertheless, there were relationships. Some of them created by the fact that someone had even gone to school together or had been together with someone in other organizations.

Question:
How did you deal with issues of confidentiality during this particular case? Did confidentiality ever become an issue?

Answer:
I don't recall that it was ever an issue, because we started with a public forum, and ended up with an agreement. Initially the meetings were seen as an agreement, to work further on the issues at the table, but not to reduce it formally to paper, and certainly not put a dollar sign to it.

Question:
And so the final agreement was not put on paper?

Answer:
It was, but when the initial conference was held and then some follow-up meetings were held, the media saw the final outcome as having the ability to interview members of the community, and to get their ascertainment in order, and to get their licenses, and that would have been the end of it. The minority community on the other hand, saw the fact that they would get some more airtime and maybe a job here and there, and maybe a scholarship here and there. And that was it. You know, not a formal package. No one saw a package.

Question:
I gather this million dollars bought a lot of scholarships?

Answer:
Yes. It bought a lot of scholarship and programming. The million dollars also included what became the development of a community relations department, within McGraw Hill and eventually all media.

Question:
Within the whole industry?

Answer:
Within the whole industry, yes.

Question:
And does that still exist, do you know?

Answer:
They do, but to a lesser degree, because they've been very successful, in getting minorities to work out in the media.

Question:
So it's not needed as much anymore?

Answer:
No. There's no question about it, it's needed, it's how it's used today.

Question:
It's interesting, this is about the media, and we have a question in our questionnaire about how you handle the media, let's get to that one when we do the general questions. To bring this case to a conclusion, how did you know when it was time to end the involvement in this particular conflict?

Answer:
Well, something happened to me personally, and I eventually ended up working as a special assistant to the director. Other people followed up and then I came back into the picture only for the signing of the final agreement and the publicity that went with it. But in the agreement itself, there were resources with which to do things that hadn't been there before. CRS always works a dispute so that whatever enforcement mechanisms are there, they're self-enforced, by the parties themselves. You know, we've never seen ourselves as having the capability of doing follow-up.

Question:
Were there certain things that you did to insure that?

Answer:
Well, in this case, the money and the commitment, and on both sides, like I said. It's easy to point to money, but it's the commitment and it's also the relationships that were established. And in this particular case, it not only established relationships here, because it eventually became a national agreement, but as a result of that, McGraw Hill then went into the four other cities and worked those programs almost voluntarily as a result of the agreement.

Question:
So would you consider your involvement in this case a success?

Answer:
Little question about that. Yes, yes.

Question:
All right, so is there anything else about that particular case that we need to know, or that you could flesh out before we move on?

Answer:
No.

Question:
Okay. I'd like to just ask more general questions about, for instance, when you were a regional director, looking at the broader overviews, the way you handled cases. I guess the first question I have, going back, and sort of walking through again, but looking more at what typically happened. Did you mostly get phone calls from people who said, "I need help?" Or were you going out saying, "There's a situation that we ought to get involved in." Who was the initiator, you or....?

Answer:
Both. We monitored newspapers very closely, and in fact, subscribed to newspapers in key cities. We would sometimes see a dispute developing through a newspaper article. We constantly visited those cities, and either provided services or simply maintained our relationships. And people would call us and tell us about disputes. I would say that less than 25% of the cases came as a request from those involved in the dispute. It's actually somebody else thinking that CRS can help in this dispute and letting us know about it.

Question:
When you found out about a dispute, how did you investigate it? How did you go about finding out what the problem was?

Answer:
We have a process that we simply call a "call-in assessment", which consists of contacting the parties, asking about the status of the dispute, the nature of the issues, and more than anything else, we simply ask in their mind do they see a resolution to it and what type of resolution do they see to the dispute, to the issues at hand? In the majority of those cases, the resolution is one sided.

Question:
Was the contact always done by telephone, or was it by mail, or did you ever just show up?

Answer:
Majority was telephoned; we still received letters, but the majority was by telephone.

Question:
Did you make the decision about who to call first? Did you always try to call the minority group first or the authorities first? Did you have a rule about that?

Answer:
It would depend on our knowledge of the disputants. In a lot of cases, we know someone and so we would call whoever we knew in that particular community, and sometimes, in fact before we even contacted them, we would contact people to get a background at the local level.

Question:
Would you always contact both parties, or all parties involved before you decided to go on-site?

Answer:
Always contact both parties, yes.

Question:
So there was never an occasion where you would go on-site without giving any notice?

Answer:
There might be an exception if violence is occurring and we think that we can get to the scene and help out, that's the exception.

Question:
Can you think of an instance, or an example that we could talk about a little bit?

Answer:
A lot of it was in Indian country, where the disputes were occurring and we would, in some cases, get requests from law enforcement or from the US Attorney's office.

Question:
Okay, well, we'll bring up other questions. I don't know whether this will jog your memory or not, but think in terms of if you were regional director now, and you heard that there was some violence happening on an Indian reservation. What role can CRS play to try to stop the violence? What do you do to try to calm things down?

Answer:
Initially we did a telephone assessment as to the nature of the violence, the nature of the dispute, certainly the parties, who are the parties, in a lot of the cases we have already established relationships with them. And in a lot of cases, we get to the scene, because we do have relationships with them and can talk to them.

Question:
With both sides?

Answer:
With both sides. Yes.

Question:
Was there ever a time where none of the major parties wanted you to become involved?

Answer:
A lot of times. Yes. Generally, it was the so-called majority. Because the majority community, school as an example, or a law enforcement agency, they're in control, they have the resources, and they have a goal. They see the disputes as something they can handle, even though in a lot of cases we eventually find out that they haven't been handling it for a long time. But in their minds, they think that they've been handling it and they've been handling it correctly. And as long as they have that attitude, they don't allow anyone else to come in. The other is the aura that exists in many of these groups, but particularly for public agencies that would deal with the idea that an outsider is coming in without them first identifying the outsider and paying for those services. It's just not existent in their day to day work, but in the way that they work and the way that they think. So we have to work our way in, really wiggle our way into a trust level and the fact that we are able to actually help them out.

Question:
Talk about how you do that.

Answer:
Initially talk about the fact that we have a relationship with the other side, and of course, that in itself becomes skeptical, the fact that we were able to have some type of relationship. And the question that comes up is if you have a relationship, how can you be neutral, (although it's never worded, it's never put into that) how can you help if you already made up your mind that they're correct and we're not and you already possibly have a solution? So we try to show them where the common interest is to that dispute and who can resolve it. And in a lot of cases the parties themselves have not looked at other resources.

Question:
Now in order to even start discussing what the common interests are, you have to get them talking with you. How do you get over that hurdle where they're saying, "Look, you probably are just one of them, you're on their side. Why should I even talk to you?"

Answer:
One of the pluses and minuses of working for the US Department of Justice, particularly with anything that has the potential for violence, is that they will listen to you. Some assumptions are made that by coming from the Department of Justice, we will bring in law enforcement, or some type of adjudication. And needless to say, we do not say that we will not do these things, because if that is the only resolution, we'll go to those resources. So we're able to get a lot of information from them with that particular handle. On the other hand, if you go to the minority community and the US department of Justice is the focus, they immediately say, "You're the F.B.I.," or nowadays, "You're INS." They clam up and inevitably, someone within the group will actually make an issue of the fact that we're from the Department of Justice, so we have to overcome those things. If that is the issue, and it's visible to us that whoever has brought it up has predominated for the time being, we'll leave the meeting. Then we'll call other individuals and meet with them separately and work our way back into the dispute.

Question:
Do you call other individuals outside of their community group?

Answer:
No. We'll call people that we have known, who are in the group. We'll say, "Well, let your group settle whether or not they want us and in the meantime we'll go talk to the police department. Generally, by that evening, we'll find a way of talking to one of the leaders and say, "Since earlier today, this is what we've learned." And a lot of times, the disputes that they're working are actually public disputes, and just about everybody has some idea about what's going on. There's usually a lot of available information and we're able to gain a lot of it very quickly. So we're able to bring a lot of information very quickly and we can convince them that we do have that ability to bring a new focus on the dispute. They hadn't even thought about that.

Question:
Did most of the cases you were involved in center on public disputes?

Answer:
I would say all of them.

Question:
After you decided to become involved in the case did you design a plan for handling this particular conflict prior to going on-site?

Answer:
Generally, the first on-site is the assessment part of it and a major part of that assessment is to determine whether or not these issues are negotiable.

Question:
Is that your decision?

Answer:
Yeah, it's our decision to make. Are they negotiable? Do they have some type of fall-back positions? Are the parties willing to work at it? And most importantly, are they willing to work and allow CRS to work with them? Sometimes we'll get half answers, not full answers. But we'll still continue on the gut feeling that we can be successful.

Question:
My question relates to that. What if there is a strong potential for violence, but it appears as if the issues are non-negotiable? What do you do?

Answer:
Again, because we come from the US Department of Justice, and even if we didn't I guess, our first priority is to reduce the violence and see that it does not occur again. A lot of times it's not within our power. Sometimes a group's agenda is that the only way they're going to gain the attention that they want is through violence. There are different degrees of violence. One form of violence may be calling public attention through a rally, not necessarily the use of fist. Mostly they'll use their mouth and intimidation through the fact that you have a large number of people involved. It's when you have those ingredients that violence occurs. So their agenda will be that the only way they can get people to come to the table and to truly negotiate is if they continue the boycott, or rally for it. If we are also convinced that is the only way, then we'll work with them, law enforcement, and the other parties. We plan every aspect of it so that it remains peaceful.

Question:
Can you think of any examples where you felt that your life was in danger or the work of CRS put you into danger?

Answer:
Even though a rally or a boycott starts out peaceful when you have a large number of people, the idea that violence can occur is always there. It has occurred and some of our mediators have been injured. Anyone with any type of charisma or the right words can ignite the emotions of the crowd, even though all of the ingredients were there to keep it peaceful. Before you know it, it's right before your eyes. So it does happen.

Question:
Do you think that it was an overall threat in each one of the cases you were involved in?

Answer:
Only those that involved rallies, boycotts, and large numbers of people.

Question:
Did you ever see a situation where CRS's involvement would undercut a legitimate protest activity or might potentially undercut a legitimate protest? Did you ever have to think about that?

Answer:
Yes. All of the time. Most of the time, we come to the conclusion that a rally's going to occur with or without us. Let us be part of it so that it can be peaceful with our help.

Question:
How would you determine what your role would be in any case? Did the parties involved shape your role or did you already come in and say, "I am conciliator," or, "I am mediator," or, "I am regional director?"

Answer:
I think it's a combination of everything that's in the scene, including its history, its leadership, the timing of it, the type of response, and resources. Clearly, when a dispute has occurred publicly and words have been exchanged, people are not talking to each other. People already feel that they are in a corner and that they're fighting back, so they're almost like a caged animal. They're clawing rather than listening or reasoning. So we come in and begin to talk to them about how they got inside that cage in the first place, and how we can get them out of there. Then the venting happens. They're venting with us and against us. If we're meeting with a Hispanic group, and they're angry, it doesn't matter to them that I'm a Hispanic. But sometimes I'm able to use certain words and phrases and I'll intermix English and Spanish. This will sometimes bring down the tensions and bring some humor to the situation. So they'll vent all of this stuff in various emotions, and we want them to do that. Once they go through that process, then we can begin to talk. "Well, what type of issues do you have?" And before you know it, "Here. Here's this paper, here's this letter, here's a history. Remember I was talking about this and that?" And the venting is out of the picture and they begin to think in a different way, begin to put it in a different perspective. All we've done is sit down and listen and hopefully asked the right questions to begin to move. The eventual question is, "How can I help you? If I go and meet with the school superintendent, what can I tell them?"

Question:
Did you set a time limit for the venting process?

Answer:
No. There's just almost no way of doing that.

Question:
If you say to them, "I'm going to go to the superintendent, what should I tell them?" and then they continue to vent, do you try to correct them? Do you tell them, "Well, we need to specify some particular issues." Do you try to get some organized thoughts?

Answer:
It all depends on how prepared they are and what type of history is behind it. For example, with a school issue, we may find that they've already written letters and outlined those issues. Maybe the letter hasn't been responded to, so they had to force the issue onto the superintendent, and that in itself hurt. The fact that the superintendent wasn't meeting with them did a lot of harm. That's when we put in the idea that we could talk to the superintendent. We put it as an "if" question. "If we're able to talk to the superintendent, how much do you want me to tell him?" That sort of thing.

Question:
Do you try to help them frame their issues at all?

Answer:
Not initially. In fact, what we find is that their issues are generally pretty well framed, from their perspective. Next we need to meet with the other party and begin to find the neutral language, or the language that's going to work for them.

Question:
Can you recall any examples where you served as the scapegoat for one particular party? Or helped one party save face?

Answer:
Hmm. I'm sure there are times. Probably most cases. That is part of the process. Let's say that we had met with three people, one of them almost certainly will say, "We'll let you." They'll use those words. "We'll let you meet with the school superintendent, but if it doesn't work, remember that I told you this, this, and that." And so they will use us and we become their scapegoat.

Question:
Was that okay with you? Did you figure that was just a part of the process?

Answer:
It's part of the process that we sometimes initiate. We want them to begin to feel that we're an extension of their dispute and that there is going to be an end to this dispute that would be satisfactory. When we begin, very early on, we'll begin to talk about the win-win situation. It won't mean much to them initially, but we'll talk about it anyway. And we'll plant a seed about that. That's our own scope also. "Remember that when we were here, we were talking about a win-win situation?" We wouldn't define it, but we were talking about the fact that the only way we could be of any help was if it was a win-win situation.

Question:
What happens if you look at the assessment and you can't come up with the win-win; it really looks like a win-lose? What do you do?

Answer:
Generally, we'll try to exit ourselves as politely as we can. If a mediator has been on the scene, a mediator's reputation is at stake, so he'll come to me as the regional director, and then I will make the call. I'll say to the school superintendent and to the leadership, "Based on our assessment, and our workload," I'll even use that, "It'll be awhile before we can get back into your community."

Question:
What were some of those red flags that you looked at to determine whether or not it would be a win-win or a win-lose situation? What were some of the flags that came up?

Answer:
Different, so-called hidden agendas. Even though they put some disputes on paper and back it up with words, they often have something else at stake. Typical of that is a leader wanting a job.

Question:
Wanting a job?

Answer:
Wanting a job. Eventually we find out that there have been interviews and that individual is up for it. Sometimes they will tell us that, but the focus of that leader is that particular job. The other one that's very common is the fact that they want to fire somebody. Flat out, I'll say, "We're not the school board, we're not the school superintendent. If the principal goes or stays we have nothing to say. You do, because you're in the community, you're a parent, or a community leader, a community organization. But we have nothing to do with that. And that's not an issue we're going to accept."

Question:
Do you try to get them to look at other ways of accomplishing something?

Answer:
Yeah, by setting goals.

Question:
Obviously they want to fire him because there's something wrong with him and he's done something wrong.

Answer:
The problem, though, is usually with the system. A good example of that are bilingual programs. Where it is or where it's not. Even today, the Denver Public Schools is an example.

Question:
How did you handle situations where you found that the parties were negotiating but they were just giving lip service to the whole process?

Answer:
We would work with them to try to focus on those things that were negotiable. We would flat-out ask them to number their priorities and force them to come up with back-up positions. When they're not able to do that, then we begin to see that they're just paying lip service. Or if the backup position is that somebody be fired, that's another clue.

Question:
Was there ever a time when you're asking the groups involved to number their positions and when you looked at their list, you said, "Wow, I would have really had this issue number one." Did you try to get them to rework the order of their issues, or was that strictly the decision of the group?

Answer:
That is one of the greatest services that we, CRS, can provide to a community group. We train our conciliators and mediators to actually carry easels, or have some place to write so everybody can look at the same thing. In a lot of cases we will initially do the writing, because we of course know the language. We will do the writing on those issues, and then in a very timely manner, we'll ask one of them, "Why don't you continue this while I take a break?" Eventually they can take ownership. People in dispute come together with a lot of emotions, and while they have all of the skills, talents, and intelligence to participate they can only provide a certain amount of time to a community dispute. It's not their bread and butter. Their reputations might be at stake or they can even say their children's futures are at stake. They can only give a certain amount of time and effort and so their involvement lasts only the time that the meeting lasts. They don't go home and get on a computer and start working on it. The school system on the other hand, the school superintendent assigns someone to work on the case. The committee doesn't have that, and so keeping them together, keeping them focused, and being realistic as to how long they can keep together becomes our task. We do that. It's actually their task, but we focus a lot as to how to keep together and who's going to do what and when. It's not that the leadership doesn't have the ability and capability, but they don't have the resources for long-term projects. Any disputes that we're working with, to us, is a very short-term project. We're looking at resolving it within two or three days. We're looking at resolving it with one meeting and they never look at it that way. It's also important to note that a lot of the disputes that we handle are in smaller communities, say a community of three thousand. We get there, and we're introduced and we give our spiel and then they get up and start telling us of all the ills of that community for the last ten to twenty years. Then we'll say, "Well, could we ask the leaders to assign someone to work with us tomorrow?" One person will meet with us and we have fulfilled their goal which was for someone in authority to listen to their complaints because no one has done it before. We happen to be from the US Department of Justice. We happen to have someone who knows how to listen, and that's it. We'll come back later and ask the city, "Well, whatever happened to that case? There were forty people there and you had a list of fifteen items. I can't get a hold of anybody, nobody will answer my calls." We have fulfilled our mission and we have provided a service to that community. That's all that's going to happen. They'll never admit to it, but that's all they wanted, someone to listen to them.

Question:
Do you think that was typical of most cases?

Answer:
Not in most of the cases, but maybe a quarter of the cases.

Question:
Was there a common theme, or common conflict when doing these cases?

Answer:
A history of severe neglect. Whether it be by law enforcement or the public education system. Neglect over a lot of years.

Question:
Would you then transfer this frustration to the party that is causing it? Would you tell the school superintendent about the meeting that you had with the minorities?

Answer:
Oh yeah. Before we leave town we will do that. In a lot of cases, the superintendent or principal is ready to meet with them, but those meetings will never occur. Some of them will occur on their own because they do have some type of a relationship, but never to the degree that was expressed to us.

Question:
So in that particular case, how do you measure success?

Answer:
Satisfaction on the part of the disputants. And in that case it'll take us a little while, but we come to the conclusion that they're satisfied. We were there and we saw the anger and we saw the history and it's common to many other communities. We almost know what the resolution, or the possible solution is. But they're not ready to put any resources into it at all.

Question:
You said something a minute ago that surprised me and I want to see if I misinterpreted you or not. You said that very frequently you do a case in just a few days, is that correct?

Answer:
In a lot of cases we have to, because of the community dynamics. We have to take advantage of the emotions and the resources that people are willing to put into it at the time. Again, as I mentioned earlier, the community doesn't have that many resources to give. So we have to take advantage of that and keep the focus and their emotions on it, because it will be gone.

Question:
So you try to meet with them and then bring them together and get the issues settled?

Answer:
Quickly, very quickly. We find out who's working, who's not working, who has time to do these things. We expect to be in there two or three days and out of there. Also at that point we're not looking for a formal agreement. We're looking for an agreement on the process as to how these self-enforcement mechanisms are going to work, but we're not looking for a signed agreement at the time.

Question:
What kind of cases are typically handled that fast?

Answer:
School cases are a good example. Law enforcement cases.

Question:
Over what kinds of issues?

Answer:
In law enforcement, the issue can be that there's been a shooting and a minority has been shot. That in itself brings out all kinds of other ills in a community where we focus on the law enforcement. On the education side, the community is initially focused on someone of high authority, whether it be a superintendent, principal, or even a very popular teacher that has committed some type of act against a child. The parents have been able to rally the rest of the community and then the rest of the ills that have occurred in that particular school come to bear. That's what brings us there.

Question:
So your goal then is to set up a process which over the long term will try to prevent that kind of thing in the future?

Answer:
Initially, by the time we come in, there has been a meeting that has attracted media attention and generally there have been promises that this is going to continue in one fashion or another. And it's that second meeting, whether it be the next day or the next week, that we begin to work with them on the issues.

Question:
Did you ever run into a situation where one of the key parties refused to meet with the other?

Answer:
I'm sure we did. Let's see. You know, certainly Wounded Knee was one. But let me think of something else here. Certainly, of course the more high-profile cases, but directly from being a media specialist, I went to being a special assistant to the director, and then I came here as the regional director, so. And as a regional director at the time, almost like today, there were only three of us, so of course we worked a lot of cases.

Question:
How have things changed over the years? Do you think that the changes in the civil rights movement or the conditions in the cities have made CRS's job different over the years that you were there?

Answer:
There's certainly recognition today that minorities are full partners in communities. Some by sheer number, others by the fact that the educational level has been raised, but certainly more important, by the almighty dollar. There's recognition today, that in terms of numbers, computers, they can pinpoint how many dollars the minority community generates in terms of jobs and spending. That is translated now into the public budgets that those services have to be as equitable as possible. Certainly, we see it in the selection of school superintendents and police chiefs today that their abilities to communicate to the total community (and the total community means the minority community today) is what their job depends on. Job descriptions of any manager, middle or upper, contains performance factors affecting their ability to relate to the minority community. Those things certainly didn't exist in the seventies. They thought that they were in full control and that they were hired to be in full control. That's not the case at all today -- we see it in the tenures today. Probably, two to three years, anybody that lasts, any superintendent or police chief that lasts anything beyond that becomes suspect as to why they're not moving anywhere, why they're staying, or if they have a tremendous amount of ability. We see it within our own communities as our own organizations, non-profit organizations who have executive director positions through grants, where the executive directors themselves don't last but two or three years. The communities themselves are now demanding more than they were before and there's recognition on the part of the leadership that they indeed have to serve this community.

Question:
Does that make your job easier or harder?

Answer:
Harder. Harder because the managers still do not know how to handle a minority community in an emerging community. By emerging I mean, how we deal with the Vietnamese community and its size is something we still have to learn. So it's a learning process. The expectations of the minority community are higher then they've ever been, now that their level of education and knowledge, and presence in the corporate world and in the private world is higher. So the disputes today are about money, or about very specific resources. We didn't even have computer screens, so those things are very different today.

Question:
Does that determine whether or not CRS becomes involved, if you frame it in terms of the money issue, it's no longer a race issue, does that remove CRS?

Answer:
It becomes a race or an ethnic national origin issue by the fact of who the minority community is, whereas it used to be that when we would get involved with a minority community, it would be the black community or the Hispanic community, or the Latino, or the Indian community. And now it's a combination of all of the above. We will get called in by a group which happens to have the better of the resources, but what we find is that it's a coalition now. And we used to have to suggest that people coalesce and while they always agreed that the idea of coalition was very good, they seldom did it. They didn't have the means, and neither did we, for them to coalesce.

Question:
Do you have to do less -- I've got a loaded term -- empowerment, less building up of the minority party now than you used to do twenty years ago?

Answer:
Oh yeah, no question about it. The type of disputes where we can find success has been raised. An example is, right before I retired, there was a NCAA dispute that initially focused on the claim that not enough minorities at that time were on full scholarships playing basketball. Well, the Black Coaches' Association found the almighty dollar, the so-called Final Four Basketball Tournament, which brings in the majority of the revenue for all college basketball programs. Because the revenue, it's TV revenue, that's what it is. Well, it so happened that one of the finalists was the University of Arkansas. In 1995, they threatened to boycott the Final Four tournament and the University of Arkansas was sure that they would be in the Final Four and eventually were. It was clear that there would be no Final Four if U of A did not participate. So when CRS finally got them to the negotiations table, you are looking at the top black coaches who are articulate and know what they're talking about, and you're looking at college presidents on the other side. This is what we've come about, that level of community. The Black Coaches' Association was saying that they were not hiring enough black coaches. By the time they got to the table, the real issue was how many Freshman individuals can you get on a team and how long can you keep them, how many can you "red shirt", and all of those complicated things that were more complicated than the general public knows about. But eventually it was the dollars: If you don't hold a Final Four tournament, you're talking about the financial life-blood of the college basketball program. You're talking about the very survival of the program. The Green Dollar-Sign Monster talks.

Question:
How did that case come to your attention?

Answer:
Through the newspapers.

Question:
CRS volunteered to become involved?

Answer:
And we made some inquiries and eventually, out of our Chicago office, one of our mediators knew one of the coaches and talked to him about what we could do. The NCAA's position was that they intended to address all of those issues through their bylaws. Eventually, the bylaws were amended, they had to wait until the next year, but eventually they were amended to suit the Black Coach Associations. And it was to the benefit of both parties to do so.

Question:
Sort of going back to the initial question about how the Civil Rights Movement has changed over the years, and you've expressed that now there's sort of a monetary component to that. Does that change the role of CRS once they get involved?

Answer:
It raises it to a different level. Using the NCAA case as an example, once we were able to find someone in authority that had an impact on the dispute and we were able to express the type of services that we were able to offer, the acceptance was there. And because there are more resources, they're able to investigate us rather quickly and either accept us or not accept us. In this particular case, we were able to say, "We'll offer you a three-member team and it will be one Hispanic, one black, and one white, and at least one female and one male." It's those types of things which, in the final analysis, don't make any difference at all. But in terms of gaining an entry and getting everybody to the table, they become very important.

Question:
So now would you say that it's typical of CRS to find their role in various conflicts now, as opposed to in the past, that organizations and groups have come to CRS and asked for their involvement?

Answer:
Some of that is CRS itself. CRS, first of all, has never had sufficient resources with which to provide the service. Currently, with only 41 people, and even when I was here I had a staff of nine people, we would pick and choose. Now you really have to pick and choose, and pick and choose only those situations in which you almost have to prove to yourself or tell yourself, or come to some conclusion that you're going to be successful. That's all you can do. There's just not that many people on staff.

Question:
Do you think that you could choose all of the ones where you think you're going to be successful, or do you have to look deeper and say, "This is the one where I'm really going to have a big impact, this is the one where they can't possibly do it without me," versus, "Well, I can be successful, but they could probably handle it on their own."

Answer:
With the exception of those that automatically drive us into the picture, which are those where violence is occurring or there's a potential for violence, the other's we look at all the ingredients. Are the parties willing to come to the table, are they negotiable issues, and do they want us really in there?

Question:
Did you sometimes just handle things over the phone, or say, "Well, why don't you call this other agency and let them help you?"

Answer:
A lot. Every situation that we identify as a potential dispute, we go through this system we call an alert. But I suspect that we will only work and document about a third of those alerts. The others simply become statistics of what's out there and what we're able to document given the resources.

Question:
So over a period of time, were there any cases that you felt CRS should have been involved in, but didn't become involved in because of resources or time, or other reasons?

Answer:
A lot of cases, particularly those in smaller communities, in Indian country, where it costs a lot of dollars just to travel to those areas. We could fly to the Dakotas for $200. Now it's $900 to fly to the Dakotas. To Montana, $700 to $900. And this is the government fare. So that impacts how we work. If we make the trip in there, we want to make sure that we're going to be there two or three days, or be there five days and handle five cases.

Question:
Were there cases in which CRS was involved where you felt that they had no business, or had no role, or really no impact?

Answer:
There were some cases, not a lot, but there were some cases in which clearly race and ethnicity were not issues. Sometimes, it was a black on black, Latino and Latino, white on white, and we just didn't belong there. Sometimes we were misled in that we would get a call from a Latino or a black or an Indian, and we assumed that because they knew who we were and we had some type of history, that this was a case and sometimes we'd even be on the scene and then we'd make a determination that there's nothing that we could do.

Question:
And how quickly were you able to assess that?

Answer:
Generally, very quickly.

Question:
And were you able to remove yourself simply by excusing yourself and saying, "Hey, we really don't belong here"?

Answer:
No. We'd tell them, this is not within our mandate, and given our resources, there's no way we can. But, I think we would identify somebody who might be able to provide the resource.

Question:
Heidi asked you something right before we took that little break about the amount of time that you are able to spend and you mentioned three, four days, typically that you spend, and just from the few interviews that I've done, that doesn't seem typical.

Answer:
Because you're hearing from all of us. The high-profile cases, high-profile cases take about six weeks for us. But the bread-and-butter cases do not. There's very little publicity associated. With them you provide a service and you're out of there. That's the typical case, not those others.

Question:
What part of your calculations do you look at, how long it's going to take you to solve it after you decide whether you're going to get involved or not?

Answer:
No. It's the nature of the issues and their willingness to accept our work. But, we can almost tell by the size of the community, the size of the parties themselves, what it's going to take.

Question:
If you had to put a percentage, or if you could put a percentage on the high-profile cases, and your typical cases, how would that break down?

Answer:
Oh, the high profile would probably be less than ten percent. And at one point, when we started actually looking at dispute resolution, which was in 1973 after the agency was reduced from two hundred and fifty to about a hundred and twenty five or so. And we started looking at a dispute resolution program and at that time, we looked at it simply as a conciliation effort, we didn't look at mediation until perhaps the early eighties, I guess, as something that we wanted to do. We also looked at mediation as a way of promoting our people. Our highest grade at the time was a GS-13 (Government Service pay level) and we wanted to promote people to a GS-14, which meant an additional $5,000. We also wanted a sort of a deputy, because we were so small and people had stayed with us. We wanted to find a way, and so we created the position called mediator and we specifically trained those people to be mediators and their outcome was a written agreement.

Question:
Let me switch gears for just a minute and ask if you ever provided technical assistance or trained the parties?

Answer:
All of the time.

Question:
What kind?

Answer:
We provided technical assistance to law enforcement, to teachers, and similar groups. It's generally very basic conflict resolution methods.

Question:
So you did that independent of cases. You just trained minorities and tried to make them mediators?

Answer:
Typically, when groups had state conferences, or national conferences, we would provide that mediation training. Or, someone would know about our training and come and make the request.

Question:
With what sort of organizations?

Answer:
Again, minority organizations. The Urban League, NAACP, LULAC, GI Forum, to name a few.

Question:
So you'd actually go to the national conference and provide dispute resolution?

Answer:
Yes.

Question:
How did you handle publicity, or media, when it came to your cases? You gave us a breakdown where ten percent were high profile cases, I'm assuming that you had to handle or come across media attention for those cases. How did you handle that?

Answer:
CRS has always had a media policy. We've always also had a media team of no fewer than two people and sometimes more than that. And the policy generally is that the publicity associated with the dispute belongs to the parties and it's up to the mediator to work out a system with them as to how they're going to handle publicity. Sometimes the mediator will obtain permission to be the spokesperson all the way through to a resolution. And typically say nothing. Other than, "We met today and we looked at issues," and "We're making progress," or, "We're not making progress." And that, eventually, when we come to an agreement, when there is an agreement, we will help them, through our media specialist, for a news release, or help them do a news conference. At the same time, they will handle the interviews and we will also counsel them as to how much to say and how much not to say.

Question:
Did you, as an employee of CRS, ever use the media as an ally?

Answer:
Certainly, if the issue was part of it, we would.

Question:
Can you think of any examples?

Answer:
The black coaches case is an example. The media was there and the black coaches themselves had personal friends in the media, so they came to some individual agreements as to how much information was going to be released. And in some cases, even while we were in negotiations, we would learn that, because of the nature of who they were, they were able to put some pressure on the case itself with very well-placed leaks.

Question:
And how did that affect your job?

Answer:
We did not know it was happening, to be honest, until it came out.

Question:
Was this a threat to negotiations?

Answer:
No. Again, that negotiation probably lasted two days.

Question:
Did any of the parties ever demand that the media be a part of the process before they would continue in negotiation?

Answer:
I'm sure there were cases. It depends on the leaders and their agendas. Some of them have a misconception about the nature of why we were there, and so they would demand that the media be part of it. This is where we talk to them individually and say, "Okay, what's the real agenda and what is this going to serve?" And in some cases, we will allow them to continue their public protest and their involvement with the media until they reach the point where they're ready to negotiate.

Question:
When you were able to bring the parties together, how did you decide where to convene the meetings? How important was choosing the right place?

Answer:
You're asking someone that believes very highly that the place of negotiations has to be conducive for negotiations first. I will go out of my way to seek funding, sometimes including our own, for a hotel room, a hotel conference room, as an example. It has to be comfortable in terms of lighting and seating. Certainly heating and/or air conditioning and drinks, and a meal ought to be served to set the stage for negotiations. Sometimes, with the type of work and in the communities that we work in this is not possible. You're talking to someone who will give anything for a good setting in order to get the negotiations going. I think it's very important. We at CRS of course look for a lot of so-called neutral places. We found a hotel that has a conference room in it to be neutral, and particularly today community centers have those types of facilities. We also found at least through 1995, that the community groups do not hesitate to go to a corporate or school setting that has a nice conference room like this.

Question:
Were the larger corporations ever willing to meet on the community turf? Let's say for instance, the community agency had a nice conference room and all of those different dynamics that you just mentioned, was the majority group willing to meet on their turf?

Answer:
Well, let's go back to my first example. As an example, the media people had all kinds of conference rooms and even the ability to serve a light lunch, or certainly coffee and donuts. But we wound up meeting at the Auraria Community Center, a large community center because the community group insisted on it at that time. And that has changed dramatically. The minority leaders now feel more comfortable going anywhere at any time and it is CRS who looks for the neutrality and whether the parties are ready to meet them in certain places.

Question:
So I gather you didn't often go to, if it was a police case, police headquarters, or a school case, school headquarters. You tried to find a neutral place.

Answer:
Particularly police stations. We stayed away from police stations. Just the very nature of police stations in the smaller community, the jail is usually in the same building, and so we generally stayed out of them. School settings normally have some type of conference room or classroom. But we generally used community centers and churches also.

Question:
How did you assist in opening up communications between the parties initially, to get them talking and get them listening to one another?

Answer:
CRS uses a lot of the shuttle diplomacy, meeting with one group and then going to the other side and beginning to share what we feel we ought to share with them. So they begin to feel comfortable that we are helping them in their best interests.

Question:
How did you determine what could be shared and what couldn't be shared?

Answer:
Generally it was the issues at hand. Most of the time on the majority they would say that they were not prepared to share certain things. They were prepared to hire someone from the minority community but that the personnel committee needed to finalize, as an example, that indeed the budget was going to have more money for a bilingual program and would have more teachers, but we couldn't share that with them.

Question:
Does confidentiality ever become a problem?

Answer:
Only to that degree. The nature of the business that we deal with is such that it becomes almost second nature to us, that unless somebody specifically tells us not to say something, we almost know not to. The example that I gave you is a good example. It's common, that they will say, "Well, I don't know what the heck they're talking about. I mean look, here's what I'm going to do." I did share these with one of them, but also held that individual to the same confidentiality. Because I've always told employees and everybody else, "It is confidential only until we get to the point that it going to be public." We have no secrets. We do work with a lot of confidential information, but it's confidential only for a very short period of time.

Question:
Now, did you ever have a problem with maintaining your own objectivity, impartiality? I'm thinking in terms of if you were ever involved in cases with hate groups, KKK, something like that? Were there times when it was difficult for you to be involved?

Answer:
Yeah, the very nature of who we are, a majority of our staff are minorities and we hire them for that and we all come with a baggage. Baggage because we held offices with certain organizations, or we've been ministers in some cases, and teachers.

Question:
I'm sure there were cases where you weren't able to pull in other people to assist you all the time. So what types of things did you do? What techniques did you use to maintain your impartiality when you weren't able to just bring someone in and have them take over?

Answer:
I think the general route that we would take is that we would begin to withdraw as quickly and honorably as we could. There comes a time when a light goes up and it says I can no longer be of service, and we will begin to identify other people that can serve that dispute.

Question:
What techniques did you have for managing your own emotions during a case?

Answer:
That becomes very difficult. We've always stressed professionalism. We have also stressed to our mediators, that even though we are dealing with community groups, you should dress the part, and typically it's easier to define a male with a coat and tie, and well, now females use something similar. But you not only have to be professional, but you have to demonstrate the image of being a professional so that acceptance of what we're doing is easier. We also constantly remind our people that despite the fact that we sort of pick and choose when we wanted to be the US Department of Justice and when we wanted to be CRS, that at all times we were representing the US Department of Justice and that there was no way to shed that. If it came down to it, we can say, "Well, I'm not Department of Justice, I'm actually CRS." But it's only emphasized by ourselves. If you approach it from a professional point of view, that you're working on a case and you accept the fact that initially the venting is going to be with you and that's all it is, including name-calling, then you can live with it. The other thing we always recommend, is that when the emotions get super-high, of course, call for a caucus. If it gets even worse, get to a telephone, and call the regional director, vent with me, and tell me all the things that are going wrong and I'll listen and do whatever I need to do.

Question:
One more question about impartiality. How did you retain your impartiality while helping to level the playing field, or prepare the parties for negotiation?

Answer:
We identified neutrality (impartiality) as part of the process and a part of the services that we provide. We began using the word impartiality, if my memory again serves me, at about the late 1980's when we began to focus more on table negotiations and looking more at written negotiations. Up until that time, we were doing shuttle diplomacy. We've always felt very comfortable about what we were doing and we had that innate ability to maintain neutrality with both parties. It is only when we looked at it more deeply and we were looking at table negotiations we decided that it's really not true that we're neutral. You're neutral for the process, but you bring certain skills and talents and in certain cases, even your race, and that cannot be neutral. What we say in our training is that if you put a vehicle in neutral, it doesn't go anyplace. It's only when you put it in reverse or put it up on drive that it goes. So, we have a history on this issue. In table negotiations, we explain to the parties that if at any one time they feel that we have crossed the line of impartiality in any way whatsoever, then they need to point that out to us. Once we do that, it doesn't come into the picture that often, or if it comes into the picture, it is on a one-on-one basis. Because they happen to have a different agenda. And so, we're able to quickly learn that it was not our impartiality that was an issue. It was something else that was an issue.

Question:
What did you do to diminish tensions between parties?

Answer:
Well, first of all, gaining acceptance is one. The other is gaining trust and working with them so that we can determine their priorities. We must also continue to ask them how we can best be of service to this dispute, and determine where the resolution lies.

Question:
What about getting trust not just between you and the parties, but between the parties themselves? Like between the minority groups and the majority groups. Presumably at the beginning of these conflicts there's a high level of distrust. What did you do?

Answer:
The biggest obstacle for us is gaining the trust of the minority group, because there's distrust among themselves, first of all. Despite the fact they have years of history, they don't come together that often. So what we find is that they don't really know each other as well as they think they do. And as I mentioned before, their share of time to give to the dispute or to give to the community, is very small. So we work a lot within the group itself so that it can coalesce and it can focus on the issues.

Question:
Do you sometimes resolve things just with shuttling, without ever bringing the groups together?

Answer:
Most of the time.

Question:
What do you do?

Answer:
Most of the time, they're not even draft agreements. We don't do that because then they want to take it to an attorney, they want to have their grandma and everybody look at it and edit it and do all of those things. And what we find is that there are existing documents or procedures that they can follow. If the procedure is to go to a school, and that principal only has a certain amount of authority, which is generally not clear to them and it is up to us to help them get a better understanding by setting up meetings where the documents are shared. They find the resolutions themselves and we don't feel that we gain anything additional by reducing that type of a dispute to writing.

Question:
How do you or how do they enforce that agreement?

Answer:
We have self-enforcement mechanisms. And let's use as an example, again, a bilingual program that's simply not working, and let's say that part of what we have, while we were there, was that the program was not explained to the community. Once the community group gets a greater understanding of it, then the next step is that program itself has a certain amount of resources to be spend in a school year and that those resources will include the minority community -- minority parents as an example, and so the resolution lies in the fact that now the minority parents have to fulfill their part of the agreement. They will attend parent-teacher meetings, and they will see that the children do certain things so they are committed to the resolution. It's not just the fault of the program, it's not just the fault of the school. There is a role to be filled by the community. And of course they themselves now have a greater role and a greater voice, which is really what they wanted.

Question:
Does CRS call the parties or contact the parties to find out if they have followed up?

Answer:
From time to time, but generally no. As I said, there's really no time. And one of the things that I do want to say is that despite all of the anger, the emotion, and how the issues are formed and in what context they're set, the one issue that is clear to us at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end is that what we're talking about is: respect for who I am, my role in the community, and how you're going to honor that respect, and you can honor that respect by listening to me, you can honor that respect by giving me a greater role, and I can honor my own respect by taking a greater role. And it's respect within the group, and that's why it becomes so difficult for us to work with community groups that are sometimes sort of dysfunctional initially. Once respect is prevalent amongst themselves, expectations and self-esteem within the group itself are raised. The one comment that we generally hear from, let's say, a school superintendent, or a police chief, or business owners, or board members, is, "I don't know what you guys did, but this is not the same group that we've been meeting with for all these years." And it's nothing we did, it's the process that helps the group to evolve.

Question:
To the extent that you know, does that group remain "changed?" Do they remain respectful to each other?

Answer:
Respect becomes a greater part of the community group's strength.

Question:
How did you know when to exit and when it was time to end your involvement in the conflict?

Answer:
When the people tell us that they're satisfied and generally it is a face-to-face meeting. From a traditional mediation, it is a negotiation session. But for us we call a community meeting -- that could be a board meeting, it could be a meeting at the superintendent's office or the community center. It is at that point where the relationships are established, and even though I doubt if you'll ever see it on our reports there is an acknowledgment of this respect that I'm talking about, that we just know that at that point, the dispute has been settled to the degree that it can. But it's up to them to carry it further.

Question:
Is there anything you can share in respect to how you're able to develop that respect? Is there something specifically that you said? Is there something specific that you do to insure that the respect is there?

Answer:
Again, the respect is something that the individuals identify and define and it's also very clear when they're looking for that. They say there's a lack of respect when you don't acknowledge our children, the fact that they're in school, the fact that they contribute to that school, and the fact that we are parents and, they express the lack of respect. When they gain that respect I think it's best expressed in a handshake when they finish a very emotional meeting, they've expressed what was lacking in their community, and eventually they express through a handshake or through a hug. One of the best pictures that I've seen is when the Indian community, following several years of trying to cancel the Columbus Day parade, the Indian leader and one of the community leaders, at the Denver Civic Center, hugged each other. One, of course, was this Italian leader and the other one was an Indian leader. And it did not settle the dispute, but they came to an agreement, an understanding, that some of these issues could be worked out and eventually, no one knew what those were, but eventually what it meant was that until further notice, the Columbus Day parade in Denver would be canceled until they could come to an agreement.

Question:
What do you think are the most important skills or attributes of a Civil Rights Mediator?

Answer:
While they come from all walks of life, they all bring a very basic value: a belief that equal opportunity has to exist for everyone, but that everyone has to earn that equal opportunity.

Question:
Do you see the role of CRS as being an advocate for the minority community?

Answer:
Only by the fact that our mandate states that services will be provided by CRS in racial disputes. If there was violence in the street and the issues were not racial, then this government would have formed a CRS-like organization that would have served everybody. We solve disputes through law enforcement, we solve them through education and through all of these other systems that serve our society. It is only when there is a community- wide racial dispute that an organization such as CRS has the mandate to respond. And government officials obviously don't see it as that high of a priority because you only have 41 offices throughout the country.

Question:
What do you consider to be your greatest strength as a mediator while you were in CRS?

Answer:
I think my ability to easily gain trust. I've been told that I have an honest face and I suspect that some people see that and I'm able to follow that with my own commitment to be of service to them.


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by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado