When did you begin working as a mediator or conciliator at
I began in February, 1967.
When did you leave CRS?
I retired in October, 1986.
What was your role while you were at CRS?
Well, I served in various roles. My first role was Field Coordinator for the western region;
the later title was simply Western Regional Director. Then a few years later I moved to another
position, and another person came in as Regional Director. Finally, I became a Senior
Conciliation Specialist (mediator) and I served in that capacity until I retired.
What were you doing prior to
I had been in the civil rights field in various capacities before I joined CRS. For seven-plus
years I had been the first staff director of the California State Fair Employment Practice
Commission, now known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. I was an
appointee of Governor Pat Brown. That agency got started in September of 1959, and I was the
organizing staff person. Prior to that, for thirteen years, I was executive director of a city-wide
interracial organization called the Council for Civic Unity of San Francisco. Today it would be
called an activist/advocacy organization, fighting for fair employment laws, fair housing, urban
redevelopment, non-discrimination policies and desegregation across the board. At that time
(1945 - 1950s), there were no state or federal laws or policies, for example, prohibiting
discrimination in redevelopment programs or private employment.
What was it that attracted you to CRS?
It seemed to me there was a real need for it and I liked the idea of working on community
problem situations. In fact, a year or two before, while I was still at the State Fair Employment
Agency, one of the original staff members of CRS came to see me to ask what kind of role I
thought there was for CRS. I encouraged him strongly, as it seemed to me there was a real need
for a trouble-shooting agency over and above the handful of city human relations
commissions that existed here and there in the West. And I thought there was a real role for an
outside intervening agency when problems got rough. I didn't know that Ronald
Reagan was going to become governor and that I was going to be looking for a job in another
year, but that's what happened. I was serving at the pleasure of the governor, so I submitted my
resignation when Mr. Reagan was entering office and we discussed a mutually convenient time
for me to depart.
Now we'd like you to "walk us through" one case that typified
your work with CRS. Please tell us about the case, how you gained entry, and you did
from that point on.
Okay. We received a phone call one day from a woman who was the tribal chairperson of a
small tribe in a southwestern state. She had found the name of the Community Relations Service
in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, a document at that time that listed all kinds of
services available through federal agencies. She indicated that they had some problems with two
neighboring non-Indian communities, mainly with respect to water. There were some other
problems with neighborly relations too, but the main issue was water supply.
I indicated that we'd probably be able to come down and talk with them and explore the
possibility of getting some discussions going with each of these two neighboring communities.
So they invited us to come do that. We did and they expressed great interest. I explained the
mediation process at some length and exactly what was involved as we saw it if they chose to
have us assist in a mediation effort. They liked this idea. Part of the explanation was that I
would need to get in touch with the other parties and see how they felt about it, explain the
process to them and see whether they were interested -- because, of course, it's a totally voluntary
process. So I got the names of key people in each of the other communities and went looking
How were you able to come up with the key names?
My recollection is the tribal leadership was able to suggest some people. One of the
communities was a neighboring small town, and the other was a most unusual sort of an enclave
within the reservation, that was located right on a major spring. There had reportedly been
understandings between that community and the tribe dating way back regarding a fair division
of the water of the spring -- and I should hasten to add that in many parts of the Southwest, water
is extremely valuable. That is especially true in this area, where the soil is very sandy and where
there are few springs, and most of the land is not suitable for agriculture because of the lack of
water. The few creeks that do exist usually dry up for at least half of the year, so this spring water
very important to the tribe and the community.
It took a few visits to find everybody and sit down and find out that
they were willing to undertake the process. We suggested that they select a team representing
each party and that each team then select a leader. Then we went through some of the processes
negotiation. We had a set of suggested mediation ground rules that one of my colleagues,
Bob Greenwald, had compiled. We found this usually worked pretty well. It started out as just a
little two-page document which he called "Notes on Mediation." It gave an introduction of what
mediation is and then suggested a few ground rules. With his permission I started using that and
gradually added to it with additional ideas and ground rules which I found useful. Both parties
looked this over and agreed to proceed, so we had both the neighboring community parties, one
more reluctant than the other, enter into formal mediation.
What did you do to get the reluctant party involved?
A couple or three visits and lengthy discussions. The more reluctant party was
community that sat on this great spring, and they had been there for a century. They were
Mormon agricultural pioneers -- at the time I was there, there were seventeen or eighteen
households. The key person in that community, who had status as an elder and who
also had some kind of quasi-judicial capacity in dealing with matters there, was very reluctant to
tolerate what he saw as federal intervention. Now and then one would run into that. I can
at least one school superintendent in a
totally different situation who really didn't want to allow any outside assistance. It was
something he felt he ought to be able to handle. So that kind of thing was not all that
uncommon. It took a little while, several conversations with this key gentleman, and then they
decided not to
have that much of a formal mediation, but a kind of a quasi-mediation process with a lot of
discussion, some joint meetings, not quite as formal as usual, but addressing the problems.
This individual, the one who was most reluctant to get involved, eventually agreed, but he
probably remained skeptical throughout the process.
So what was the problem they had?
Well, the tribe felt that they weren't getting their full one-third share of water which an older
informal agreement had provided to them. That was really their number-one concern. One of
the reasons they were calling CRS for some help was that the tribe's attorney was up in Salt Lake
City, which is a mean distance from the tribe's location, and their lawyer was a member of a
very prominent Mormon law firm. So the Indians weren't at all sure they were getting the kind of
representation they needed to deal with their problems. There was another problem, too:
the people in the enclave community felt that some of the cattle from the tribe were occasionally
trespassing across fence boundaries, so there were concerns on both sides.
A key thing in this case was how to
handle technical problems. I
had no knowledge and would not presume to have any knowledge about water issues, so
everybody agreed to get a hydrologist in and another related expert to help us. We were able to
get some folks from the state university and one other expert to come. Everybody, tribal folks
and enclave folks, walked the area with the experts, examined the spring, discussed ways in
which the waterflow could be enhanced even over what it was at that time, and these gentlemen
did some measurements on the scene as to how much water was coming out, so that there could
be some accurate checking.
One of the counter-grievances that the enclave community had was that there was another big
spring up the canyon that the tribe was trying to develop. The enclave worried that that was
interfere with the flow of the existing spring. Eventually, an agreement was reached that was put
in writing, and that seemed to lay a foundation for a better relationship.
How much longer after you first went to the site did all these
Well, after the initial visit to the tribe, I tried as quickly as possible to reach this key person
the enclave community. I wanted to do this as quickly and expeditiously as possible, not only to
move it along in an efficient way, but to avoid having suspicions arising on either side as to
what was happening. I wanted to have quick, face-to-face, frank discussions of who feels what
and what appears to be the problem.
Did you have that goal or that plan set out before you went on-site, or is this something you
came up with as you got there?
I just had a common sense of mediation. I knew I needed to reach party A, and then the
parties as soon as possible.
So how did you set your goals, then, once you got on-site and
spoken to those parties?
Well, I would say the goal simply arose from the nature of the problems that got
defined by the respective parties. The basic mission of CRS was to help folks who were in
tense, potentially (or actually) confrontational or violent situations with each other, to
help them identify their main areas of grievance and difficulty and see whether something could
be done to reach a common ground and ease the tensions. The problems automatically dictate the
goals. Of course, CRS is concerned with not just trying to paper over the situation, but
hopefully enabling the people to address real problems that underlie their difficulties, so that
justice can be served on all sides by whatever resolution is reached.
Did you find that there was much
discrepancy or difference between what you thought to be the issue and other underlying issues,
and what the people revealed?
I don't think a great deal of difference. There were some questions of fact that got
straightened out with the assistance of the hydrologist. So the concerns and fears of the tribe
eventually became somewhat eased. Both parties listened to the hydrologist and others as to
how they could enhance the flow of the spring. As a layman, I was
fascinated to begin learning about this. There were cottonwood trees and other growth in an area
surrounding the spring, and the water experts pointed out if you cut that growth down, the spring
might yield more. Somebody had the bright idea to put in a small herd of goats and let them eat
up the vegetation.
Was there any question about the credibility of the hydrologist? Did anybody think he was
working for one side or against another side, or did they trust you to find an impartial expert?
I think maybe one or the other party asked me to suggest where we could find an expert.
suggestion may have come from the tribe or from the enclave community. Once the two men
came up there, though, I don't recall there was any question of their credentials.
Were members of both key
always willing to meet with you when you designated a time and place?
We would work out a time and place mutually. They were busy folks, working folks, so we
had to work around their schedules and mine.
Did either party ever ask you to do something that you weren't able to do?
I don't think so.
Tell me about the role of trust in this
case. How important was it? And how did you try to build trust with the reluctant party?
I suspect that with this one initially reluctant individual, there was never one hundred
percent trust. I would like to think maybe there was seventy-five percent. I would guess that he
decided there was some value in spending his time this way; it was almost more a matter of
confidence than of trusting. He began to feel maybe it was worth doing, and I think others in the
community felt -- more than he did -- that it was worth doing. I don't think he ever got
about the process.
How did you "ferret out" the issues in the case?
The tribe's number one issue, as I've said, was the question of proper share of water. We sat
down and talked it over slowly in sessions that would run a couple hours, three hours maybe.
The tribe talked about certain grievances and problems and I would ask a lot of questions to try
to make sure I understood exactly what they were saying, and that may have helped them to get a
little more exact about what they were concerned with.
One of the problems of defining issues and of getting into the formal mediation process involved
relationships within the tribal leadership specifically. I've experienced it in more than one
situation where there is a substantial difference between the younger members and the senior
members. In this case the youngest member was also the tribal administrator. This was a small
tribe, it did not have much staff-- I think there was maybe a part time secretary and one full-time
person --and it turned out that he was quite reluctant to speak up on behalf of the tribe. So folks
would sit around everywhere on the edges of this common meeting room and there would be lots
of long silences and getting the process to move along took some doing. The mediator had to
push a bit.
How did you do that?
I explained the negotiation process and explained that in order to get into mediation they
would really need to decide one, two, three, four, five, what they wanted. What did they want to
ask of the other party and what kind of solutions did they want to ask for, what remedies for the
problems? This was a slow, slow process. When it seemed their problem was getting
defined and a remedy suggested, I would try to phrase it clearly and ask, "Is this correct, is this
what you're saying?" The act of getting it on paper and reading it back seemed to help. In fact I
don't know when we would've gotten it underway if I had not done that.
How did you decide when was the right time to bring those two
Now here let me switch to the other case which involved the neighboring small town that
a different kind of a water problem with the tribe. That problem had to do again with the
absence of formal historical legal documents. About a two-mile stretch of pipeline that served
this neighboring community from a spring many miles to the north went across part of this
reservation, and it was an old six-inch cast iron pipe that everybody knew had been leaking. The
town had a need to replace that pipe with a non-leaking pipe, so they needed the tribe's
permission to do this. They knew there was an easement across the tribe's land, but the records
were lost. The tribe had a small community at the west end of the reservation, a tiny community
that had only about three households in it, and they didn't have any piped water. So the tribe,
knowing the town wanted a new easement, said, "Ok, we want water." The only water they'd
been getting for this tiny community was trucked in from about a mile away. There had been an
understanding that they had a cattle watering tank that came out of the town's water. It was
understood on both sides that the tribe was supposed to get some water, but this was the only
water they were getting for many years. The tribe was concerned, so I contacted the head of the
town's water council, who was very much interested in mediation. There were lot of tangles and
problems due partly to the great distances between the town and its attorney who lived at least a
four or five hour drive away. On one occasion the tribe was a little short of funds and we had a
delay of some months because the attorney's fee was not forthcoming. There was a standstill for
quite a few months on that. I kept sort of nursing it along, keeping folks interested and pushing
toward the objectives, and of course there were on-site visits and discussions of the water line.
There were gaps of understanding and serious differences over what could be done and what
could not be done. Eventually, after having been in and out of the scene for something like three
years, eventually we began to shape up the draft of a possible agreement that went through
several drafts and discussions. The final result was almost fours years before we got it nailed
Did you have to employ any persuasion techniques in order to
facilitate this whole process?
Persuasion, persistence, and patience are the name of the game. But also I would say
technical assistance was important. Technical assistance to the tribe and helping them when it
appeared that some kind of letter from the tribe to the town would be essential to make the next
step, I would assist if they wanted me to, and they did.
Does this mean you drafted the letter?
I did some drafting, yes. This goes back to the question of how the parties are trusting you--
whether one side or the other is going to suspect you of taking sides. My moral, professional
take on that is - and I'm perfectly willing to say this to both sides - I am assisting in some ways
to make the process we've all discussed and agreed on possible to get to some kind of resolution.
Did you give any assistance beyond drafting agreements and just helping them understand
When we got into the actual mediation process, the first joint meeting was with either five or
six members of each team. I had attempted to assist particularly the tribal folks but I went over
the same thing with the town folks, the elements of negotiation and what's involved. You're
trying to reach these other folks, you're trying to persuade them. Of course I'd gone over all that
stuff with both sides. But I think it's fair to say that the tribal folks had had almost no experience
in negotiation and needed more help in that regard. When we got into the first joint session that
evening, I was chairing the session, and the agenda involved the demands that the tribal group
put forth and the concerns that the town had. But it was hard to get anything moving.
This case sounds fairly typical of many environmental mediation
cases. Was there anything about the racial dimension to this that made it more difficult to
I guess there would be two dimensions of that. One is between the parties, and the other
would be between me and the parties. I don't think there was a problem between me and the
parties. With the neighboring Mormon community, I don't think there was a problem, and we
were invited in by the tribe, so I don't think there was any problem that way, as far as my being
involved. I've often asked myself how come this white man can seemingly have these good
working relationships with other folks. I'm not sure I know the answer to that except I think
maybe it goes to the question of the folks in so-called "minority communities" who I think are
quite capable of spotting phonies. I've fared reasonably well that way I guess.
What about between the parties?
Between the parties, I think there were some degrees of distrust and skepticism, probably
both ways, but I think it varied as to individuals on the respective teams.. But there wasn't much
problem in fact I can recall one or two members of the town team who seemed to me to be very
open, straightforward, and respecting over the years of their neighbors in the tribe.
Does CRS often go into situations where racial relations really
aren't the key issue? Was there any question whether CRS should be involved in this since the
key issue was not race-related?
No. I don't think so. I think I'd be correct in saying I don't think CRS ever limited or defined
its role such that it had to be "a race issue" per se for us to get involved. It had to do with
whether it was a minority community group concern or issue or issues affecting minority
communities, usually with an establishment party, government, or corporation that put it within
the meaning of the statute.
This sounds like a fairly low tension situation. Was there any
serious tension between the groups?
Pretty hard to discern. Undoubtedly there were some members of the town committee who
looked down their noses at tribal members, but that did not become manifest. I recall one
member of the town committee who after we had an agreement expressed the feeling he wasn't
happy, even though he went along with the agreement. He seemed to reflect some kind of a
disdain toward the tribal members. I'm sure that some of the older tribal members had past
experiences that were a source of unhappiness, but this did not get expressed and did not enter
into the picture.
Did you try to address any power disparities between the parties?
Was the tribe considered significantly inferior to the townspeople?
Well I've already talked a little bit about what seemed to me to be some disparities in
experience negotiating and the capability of wheeling and dealing. I think the duty of a mediator
is to try to help the parties get into positions where they can really deal with each other.
How did you deal with the idea of impartiality, neutrality, or
objectivity? If you are actively telling the tribal group this is what you need to do, how does
that affect your neutrality in situations? Or was that even an issue?
It didn't get raised by either side as an issue. I don't like the term "neutrals" to describe
mediators, I prefer other terms, "objectivity" and "impartiality." I don't think any individual
mediator is going to be without his or her assessments and personal values with regard to
situations. The only question is whether that is going to interfere or unethically intrude upon the
action that the mediator takes and that's a distinction obviously that ought to be maintained. The
more strongly you feel about a given injustice as you see it, the more careful you have to be as a
mediator. The mediator really does need to look at the concerns and problems of both sets of
In these two cases, or in other cases, did you ever have a
deciding how far you could go helping one party and still be acting objectively? Was this a fine
line you had trouble discerning?
Maybe I'm just fairly good at rationalizing my actions. My rationalization is that I'm trying
to facilitate reaching a resolution of a whole bunch of problems. Sometimes a whole bunch of
them, sometimes just one or two main ones. You can justify all kinds of things if neither party is
being pushed into something that is inappropriate or you're substituting your judgment. I would
say there probably are some fine lines there. Let's say maybe the weaker party gets too
dependent or gets very dependent or would be willing to take a strong recommendation from a
mediator as to what their course of action ought to be. I think that gets into areas that are
questionable, where good ethical professional practice of a mediator should give pause. It's not
always easy to do or answer where that line is.
Did you have difficulty in finding that line at different times in
your career at CRS?
I think I was aware of it now and then in situations. I'm sure there were some times at which
I advised myself to pull back a little. As much as I felt I saw the solution, I knew I needed to
thought of solutions and you didn't see them going that direction did you raise them?
Oh I might ask a lot of questions. What's one of the useful concepts, of course, is a reality
check. I would use that often, or occasionally at least, in preparatory sessions when a given
group, usually the minority agency group or minority community group was shaping up its
demands in anticipation of a mediation session. There would often be one demand to fire the
police chief, or fire the supervisor of welfare, for example. We had one case that involved a
social welfare department in a rural county where such a demand, along with eight or ten other
demands, came up, and that took a little doing to deal with. You try to ask how important is that
demand in relation to the other eight or ten. In the case I'm thinking of, there were ten or fifteen
points on the agenda that were shaped up in the course of a couple of long get-ready sessions.
An attorney from one of the public rural assistance outfits helped articulate those concerns and
put them in shape, which was very helpful. In that case you try to counsel people and ask, "is
this demand within the realm of possibility?" This county supervisor of welfare had been in that
job many years, and undoubtedly had high status in the county establishment. Yet the group
was unwilling to abandon the demand that he be fired. But we managed to get them to put it at
the end of the list of fifteen or so.
That leads to another interesting point which applied in this case. Do you submit the demands in
writing in advance of the mediation session? I tended to favor not doing so for the rather
obvious reason, well for a couple of reasons. One, a demand like that was going to blow it. But
even apart from that, if you formalize it all in writing and submit it in advance, you're sort of
making it like a legal court process. My second reason for preferring not to have demands
submitted in advance of the first joint session is that it formalizes it and gets the other party in a
more adversarial stance and lets them prepare to come back with rebuttals, and counter-
arguments. I'd rather have that as a spontaneous process.
They may come back and object like crazy. But if it's in a mediation process where we're tying
to establish some relationships and where I can facilitate it or function as moderator, we've got a
better chance of getting something done. In this particular case I was referring to, with the
proposed firing of the welfare superintendent, the superintendent was present at the mediation, as
well as a key county administrative officer. The group of six or seven Chicano agricultural
workers and community people who had brought their complaints about the behavior of the
welfare department were also there. We got through the first three or four points on the agenda
and we were making reasonable progress when the county administrator leaned over to me and
asked if anybody could call a recess and have a caucus anytime they wanted to. I said, "of
course," and he called for a recess and asked for his team to see the mediator.
So we sat down together, or maybe he just spoke to me privately. His message was that the
superintendent had finished reading all the way down the list and had come to the end of the line
that said, "fire said superintendent." This guy was very helpful in this whole deal. He said,
"This is going to blow it, she's going to walk out and it won't go." What I then did was caucus
with the other group and say, "Hey we got a problem." I guess they were willing to set that
aside, at least tentatively, and see how we could do on the rest of the stuff. So we resumed. By
two or three o'clock that day we wound it up. I went back to the motel room and spent half the
night writing the agreement up, which is one of the functions I did frequently. The next day it
got signed, we had a deal. So reality checks attempted in advance don't always do it.
How much do you try to get people to reframe what they're saying
in terms of demands or positions to the underlying interest?
The term "demands" is not always helpful. "Proposals", perhaps; semantics are pretty
important. Usually we weren't talking "demands" when we sat down together, although it might
have started out that way in the get-ready session. A very large chunk of the time is spent with
the preparatory work. I think sometimes as much as forty or fifty percent of the effort might
have been there.
Tell us more about what the "get-ready work" entails.
As I mentioned before, it entails making sure they had defined their problems and hopefully
had been able to focus on some proposed remedies. For a less sophisticated group, sometimes
that would take a lot of time. When feelings are high and grievances are pretty heavy, one of the
problems for the mediators is trying to get the folks to understand we aren't going to adjudicate
what has happened up until now. As nasty as the history may be, we are not judges, and this
process isn't going to result in any decisions as to who was guilty or not guilty. The
point is how are you going to make this situation better in conjunction with the other party?
It would sometimes take long and repeated efforts to get the focus away from blame and guilt. I
recall one case of young adults in a Chicano community who were in a hassle with the
administration of a community college. The most articulate activist in the group had had many
acrimonious run-ins with the college president. I guess we were invited in or we offered to assist,
so we went in and met this guy. He was very passionate, very articulate, and effective in lots of
ways, but he was very outspoken. There must have been eight or nine people who made up the
main group. They decided to go for mediation, so they put a team together, and we went over
the ground rules and all of that. We had met two or three times before we reached that point.
When they selected their team, they left him out. I may push a fair amount sometimes for
including people, but I wasn't going to push for that. I was very relieved that was their decision,
because it certainly enhanced our possibilities of success. Apparently they realized that he
would probably continue to blow his stack and blow it all. I think they made him an alternate
member of the team. We would often suggest maybe a couple of alternates in case somebody
couldn't be there, but a heavy emphasis in our ground rules is don't accept a position on a team
unless you're really making a commitment to be there, because continuity is extremely
Did you ever run into trouble where the people who were on
designated team were not accepted by the other people outside?
I think there was care enough in putting the teams together by the group that I don't recall
happening. CRS followed a process of closed sessions. I remember once we were about to
convene the first session with a tribe and the sheriff's department. In addition to the five or six
team members, a tribal council member who was a very articulate, strong person but who wasn't
on the team, insisted that she and one or two others be allowed to sit in. I did my best to explain
that everybody has come together here on the understanding that these were going to be closed
sessions, and I pushed for abiding by that understanding. But the tribal council member didn't
buy it. I think I suggested a recess, and asked if I could sit down with the tribal folks. In a
caucus we talked it over, and she was allowed to sit in. I guess I must have talked to the sheriff's
folks too-- their team of three or four. It was decided it really wasn't worth excluding that good
Did you ever have to mediate conflicts within one group,
Yes. A higher-level person in our agency did raise a question as to whether we could
properly take jurisdiction. In California, where we don't have large tribes, there are rancherias
that may consist of only a handful of households, or maybe a hundred to two hundred people,
and in many of those cases, long term antagonisms between groups, between families-- almost
like clans within the tribe--continued or festered. Well, we took on one like that.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) called us in that one, saying there was a tribe that needed a
constitution. The two factions within the tribe could not convene peaceably in order to get one
written and submit it to a vote. And BIA couldn't force it, yet BIA also couldn't discharge its
legal responsibilities to deal with the tribe unless it had a duly constituted government. They
called us, I then called the two sides, I got names from BIA and made some phone calls and they
said "yeah, come on down." So there were two factions within this band. We had an intensive
all afternoon meeting with one side, all evening with the other side, then it was mostly done. I
think we came together the next morning with the elements of an agreement as to how to
proceed to get a constitution written and acted on. I left the next afternoon. It doesn't always go
all that smoothly, but they got off the ground on that.
The jurisdiction question for CRS was raised internally because this was not a minority
community vs. the outside world or an establishment party, so how do we get jurisdiction? My
rationale was that these minority communities are there by virtue of history and the
establishment and they have serious residual problems which obviously emanated from the
actions and policies of our dominant society.
When you were doing a mediation between a tribal community
and the majority group, did you have to do mediation within the individual side before you were
able to bring groups together, or did you figure that outside your role?
No, I would not have considered that outside the role if, in order to arrive at meaningful,
potentially useful negotiation and mediation, it was necessary to help folks get themselves
How did you identify the community resources that would help
you resolve your conflict?
Well, we used the hydrologist from the state university in that one case, and in that other
involving the county welfare department, outside assistance was very vital there. We needed
clarification about the exact meaning of complex statutes, and federal and state regulations
regarding welfare aid to dependent children and a whole lot of other stuff. Here again, most of
us, certainly myself, and I think most of the community people, were not experts on any of that.
So it was agreed in advance that we would get two experts up from Sacramento to help us. They
were from the State Department of Social Welfare, and each had his or her area of expertise with
respect to the statutes and regulations, and that was agreed to by all sides in advance. They
participated in the sessions, so they were there and could answer if any questions arose as to
what the regulation was.
So they were there to give factual information?
Correct, technical and factual, not to do anything else, and they didn't try to do anything else.
Were the experts from the welfare department seen as being on one side or the other?
No, I don't think so, because we had agreement in advance that said we needed some people
who would call the shots as they were and who were not themselves involved or seen as
involved with the county welfare department.
Did you ever bring in outside
resources who might act as informal mediators or people who helped groups work better
together, such as church people, for example?.
There was a big case in Atlanta involving the Atlanta police department, the FOP (Fraternal
Order of Police) which included the white officers, and the African-American Patrolmen's
Association (AAPA). This was a three-way court referred case. The case was long-standing, it
had been a long stalemate and hassle that the Atlanta downtown community wanted to see
What was the issue?
There were complaints brought by the black officers about the whole hiring process and the
lack of adequate representation at various levels. It had been stalemated for a long time, without
any progress being made. An earlier court decision had actually frozen hiring, so the city was
hurting, it needed cops! Of whatever color. Our regional director down there in Atlanta, had
tried several times to get the city to vote for a try at mediation. The mayor apparently did not
want to bring it to mediation and let CRS try to help resolve it. Finally it was getting
to a zero hour, the court had a date set for resuming the trial, I think about a month away.
Finally on the initiative of one of the black members of that city council, a very prominent guy,
a motion went through that the city would request CRS assistance in the case. That's what
brought us into it. And the Director of the Agency at that time, Gil Pompa, asked me to be the
I didn't get but a dozen hours of get-ready time because everybody was so anxious to get rolling.
The Atlanta regional director had selected one of his key men to be on the mediation team as
associate mediator, and he was well acquainted with the case, which I was not. I flew in one
morning and the mediation was to be convened the following morning. So I had a busy day of
trying to get somewhat familiar with what this was all about, and to get squared around with my
great associate mediator.
We needed to have an understanding as to how to handle ourselves together at the head of the
table. Fortunately, the regional director had it all set up and arranged, being a very effective
operator. And the downtown community, being kind of interested, one of the great big
downtown banks had turned over its posh top floor board room for this mediation. It even
provided coffee and refreshments throughout the day.
When we went into the lobby that morning to go up, security was all over the place. It was
understood this was to be highly confidential. They all took it very seriously. You might say
there was a bit of an outside assist from an unusual source.
The whole thing took five weeks. Within a couple of days, two and a half days, we had an
agreement, it seemed. We went over the terms of the agreement, back and forth, not just
casually, but point-by-point-by-point. It was a matter of the respective attorneys doing final
draftsmanship and our convening either the next morning or two mornings later to sign. I think
it was the next morning we got into a session that was to be a signing session, but one faction
had serious second thoughts or a claimed difference of understanding about certain provisions,
so they said "no dice, no agreement."
This was the middle of the first week and had we thought we had an agreement. So we went
back to work. We worked our tails off day and night for all the rest of that week and part of the
weekend. It went on and on. Finally, I was very surprised and pleased that one of the white sides
wanted to caucus with my black associate. It was not the AAPA that asked to have that, but the
whites. They had a good session, and it finally worked out.
We had to ask the judge for a one week extension on that trial date and I remember he set it for
two p.m. on a Monday, and we worked right down to the wire. At one p.m. that day we got the
Later on women officers in the department raised some serious questions. They had not been
part of the process and they had not been asked to be part of the process by the black officers, the
white officers, or the city. None of these folks, including the women officers themselves, had
raised the women's issues while this thing went on. But they did later. I don't know what
happened about that--whether the consent decree was finally amended, or not.
How much is later on, a year, weeks, months?
I think within the following year, they got some kind of recognition, whether they were made
part of a formal agreement, I don't know. But the main agreement that came out expanded the
range of hiring, the geographic range of hiring among other things. And it covered a whole lot
of other measures and actually spelled out some promotional slots and all kinds of stuff the black
officers had been seeking.
You mentioned this was a court-referred case?
The court referred it in the sense that the court was referring it for an attempted mediation
while retaining jurisdiction.
How often will CRS serve the court in that capacity?
The agency was quite interested in having that kind of case whenever the court was willing
do it. And we had several in this region that I was involved in. It had lots of advantages to
everybody. Most of the judges who were involved in complicated cases involving a number of
plaintiffs liked to have it. I handled two cases involving major police departments that were
court referred by the US District Court here.
Were you able to complete those successfully?
Yes. We came out with formal agreements. Another of them was not that big and
complicated and formal. I don't think that resulted in a consent decree-- it resulted simply in a
better deal. It involved a state college and a certain department within the state college. I think
that may not even have qualified as a full-fledged mediation case, but some desirable results
were obtained. The others were very formal, with major concluding memoranda of
understanding, pages long and a lot of specifics.
How did you know that you were done? When did you call
I think the answer to that is fairly simple in that you have either exhausted every effort over
time and you got an agreement, or you haven't. Or one party or the other has exited and it's
fallen apart. That didn't happen in any of these court referred cases. In one of those cases, the
city police department and the city administration were extremely reluctant to enter into a
mediation process. It took quite a bit of persuasion and probably implicit pressure from the
District judge who strongly recommended it. Almost kicking and squealing, the city entered in.
Then there was a long slow process-- it dragged out longer than it needed to because we couldn't
get them to meet as fully and frequently as we would've liked. I think we met only two or three
hours once a week. Nevertheless, we eventually got a good agreement.
What mechanisms did you use to enforce the agreement once it was made?
In the case of a consent decree, if there is an apparent violation, then the attorneys of the
plaintiff may go back to the judge. We usually build into these agreements a provision that if
there is a dispute as to the implementation or interpretation of the decree, they would try an
informal process to resolve it, using us, if necessary, to help. And failing those efforts. the
attorneys would move in. But we hardly ever got called on for that; it didn't really become all
One of the areas we haven't gotten into
is the media. Did you ever get involved with the media, and if so, how? And did you find them
to be a help or a hindrance, or some of each?
As you're aware, the basic policy and approach of CRS in mediation was not to initiate
contact. We did not try to involve or use the media in any way. Sometimes the media were
there first, and were aware of a problem and CRS came in, so there was media attention to it. In
most of my cases, mediation cases, as well as the others that were not mediation, there was little
or no media involvement. One of the points in mediation, one of the understandings we would
have as a basis for the process, was that it would remain strictly confidential. Nobody would
talk to the media, other than the mediator. He would only do that to answer limited
informational questions-- obviously without going into issues or where it stood. "A useful
session, good progress was made, we are hopeful," all that stuff. Most of the parties found that
Usually in a memorandum of understanding, the agreement would be released to the
press in a manner that the parties would agree to in advance. Sometimes we would do this with
the parties present, at least the team leaders. Often the mediator would summarize the
agreement, team leaders would each make a comment or two and a copy of the agreement would
be handed over to the press.
I remember specifically doing that in one situation involving one of the California Indian tribes
and the sheriff's department. We had a full dress press conference in a hotel in a nearby city, to
get it into the public domain. At least in those days, none of us assumed that these agreements
were enforceable, but we figured getting the agreement made public helped with compliance.
Gradually, toward the latter part of the time I was with CRS, there began to be some thought that
maybe some agreements were enforceable, and I guess the field has moved along in that regard
now. But we relied on public pressure, and media attention as a means for enforcement, so it was
important to make a good splash if you could.
Did any of the parties insist on having the media present in order to continue with the
No. Not in my experience. If they had made that pitch, I don't think our CRS director would
have allowed us to proceed. I know I wouldn't have felt that I could say okay without checking
with higher authority at that point.
How did you judge when a case was successful, or what did
I guess the main criteria would be that both parties seemed reasonably pleased with it,
hopefully enthusiastic. And it being a written agreement.
If you didn't get a written agreement, was it a failure?
Um...not necessarily. But it wasn't a complete success either. I can think of two examples.
the case involving the big spring and the enclave community, as I remember, there was not a full
formal agreement. I think there was some memo exchange or something, but it didn't have quite
the full status that I would have preferred. Nevertheless, I think it was meaningful, as it was a
substantial advance over the previous messy non-communicative situation. We had a few other
cases that were not formal also. We tried to get into formal mediation, if we could, because we
think that the potential results are much better, but even if we couldn't, it was nice to try to come
out with something. So there was a fair degree of success sometimes.
Did CRS measure success any differently than you would've
I'm not sure that I ultimately know. There might have been a few times when my superiors
thought that I had spent enough time on a case and suggested that I leave before I was ready but
that didn't happen often.
What did you do then?
I might have tried to persuade my superiors to let me have at it a little more.
Did you ever have to exit early, either because of pressure of
other things going on, or whatever?
No, I don't think so. But as you already know, some of these cases dragged out anyhow, so
even if there was a heavy priority on something else, it wouldn't necessarily kill a given case. Of
course, some others did not drag out, we got them done in a day or two days, and of course,
nobody was going to pull us off that Atlanta case which was very much in the public eye. It was
a very important case. There were several others in the Midwest and the East that were big ones
too. In Tennessee, there was a big fire department case that had a lot of attention that involved
the same basic questions of quota, hiring, all that stuff.
ever have to leave a particular case because the violence or the potential for violence was too
great, or you felt you were in danger by remaining with the case?
No. Let's see, on the latter point, no. As to whether the general potential for violence was
great, I don't recall. I was out of the country when the Watts riot happened and I wasn't with
CRS. I was with the state FEPC, and some of my colleagues tried to do a few things, but
obviously, that's no mediation case. Now and then you'd go into a situation that was a little
dicey, where you didn't quite know what might happen.
One of those was a case I greatly enjoyed, again involving some of our Native American citizens
in a heavy situation where an encampment had been established on an important river. A timber
company and a private ranch also had land on this river. The Native Americans had established
this camp to try to make a big statement about Native American rights with respect to fishing
and other things, and had even been peeling off a few shots at commercial boats going up the
river. They apparently had even strung a cable across the river to impede the progress of tourist
boats. So it was a dicey scene. It was in the papers, of course, and there were reports about it.
I was able to make a few phone calls and find out more about it quite easily. One of the things
that was happening was that apparently some of the young super militants had gone over to this
nearby ranch and were sort of terrorizing the families that lived there roaring their way in their
cars into the ranch and also cutting their plastic waterlines.
The ranchers were folks whose ancestors had owned a large part of this timber land which was
now owned by a timber company. But they had this beautiful ranch sitting on a bluff
overlooking the river and they'd been there for two or three generations. So it was those folks--
one could hardly blame them who pulled out their firearms at a certain point in self-defense. It
was a little dicey.
The sheriff was trying to decide whether or how to deal with it. He was aware of the terrible
dangers to everybody of armed confrontations, and he feared that if he had his men move in on
this Native American camp, somebody was going to do some shooting. And of course he was
worried about this ranch. I met one morning up there at breakfast with the district attorney and
the attorney for the timber corporation and the sheriff to get their advice on what we could do. I
indicated that we were willing to go in and try to talk to folks, and they were all for it. They
gave us all their support.
I got my directions on how to get there. It was only few miles on a dirt road off the highway,
but there had been some blockage of that road by some of these guys. So it was not certain
whether my little rental car would be allowed to proceed.
Did you call before you left?
There was nobody to call. This was a camp out on the banks of this major river under a few
trees that this company had left along the riverbank God you should see the clear cutting that
had been done-- it was just criminal. Nobody blocked the road and I found my way in and
parked near the river and I realized the camp was about 300, 400 yards away.
I walked in. Naturally somebody came out to meet me. We talked, and I asked if I could see
their head person. The person who met me wasn't sure. There was a tent or two and a fire pit
and some other stuff along the river. So we wound up having long, unhurried discussions about
everything, about the issues and the grievances and fishing and so on. The hours went by and I
was invited to lunch--the lunch was fresh smoked salmon over a pit--smoky and beautiful. It was
getting to be about 2 p.m. and I wanted to try to get some work done. But the head person hadn't
emerged from the tent. I wasn't getting very far, it seemed. A sister of the head person was
around, and there weren't very many people there. None of the young militants was there, no one
was being threatening. I tried to get out of them whether they would consider some mediation if
the folks at this nearby ranch agreed. I couldn't get any definite answer, so I said that I'd walk
over to the ranch and then I'd come back, which I did. I spent a fair amount of time with the
ranch people and came back at practically the end of the afternoon, and the camp people said
that they were willing to try some kind of conversation with the family at the ranch. But I never
could get to talk to the head person. Her sister said that she wasn't feeling well, and we were
never able to get anything nailed down to an agreement to convene. Fortunately, no fireworks
ever took place between the sheriff's people and these folks, so things were calmed down at least
Did it often happen that in very
confrontational situations where tensions are high and the potential for violence is high, that's it's
difficult to get the parties or the other federal agencies who might be involved to agree to
I guess that's true on some of the major confrontations that were wide public knowledge or
wide knowledge at the time for a combination of reasons. But even when CRS was not able to
play a mediation role, in some situations it was able to play a very valuable advisory role or
consultative role with respect to decision making regarding what was more likely or less likely
to lead to a violent confrontation. We'd advise other federal or state authorities about actions
they might have been contemplating, and for what it's worth, would offer our insight about how
to handle the situation. We would also fairly often be important sources of intermediation or
communication, if not formal mediation. For example, we would at least assist by interpreting
to each side where the other one stood, and what were some of the problems that maybe could be
eased, depending on what decisions were made or measures taken. Sometimes we would be
working in that connection with major federal enforcement agencies like the federal marshal or
the FBI or Interior Department's or Forest Service's enforcement personnel. These would not
usually devolve into neat, well-ordered mediation cases. They might have been very important
situations though, and probably I think the agency helped substantially in such situations--
certainly we did at Wounded Knee.
Did you work with others or did you generally work by yourself?
I worked mostly solo. Now that's on the mediation cases. Typically until CRS got so
down in terms of staff, typically in the older days, we would have gone out on cases in pairs.
But you go into a problem situation and you almost always do it in pairs, so we could have a bi-
racial or interethnic team that would go in. Sometimes in mediation cases, a conciliator would go
in and do the important ground work he or she would have been in touch with the parties,
would have sized it up, and would report whether the case had mediation potential. Then the
regional director would say, ok, Howden get on in there and see how it goes. At some point the
first colleague might depart the scene and I might take it from there.
When you went in by yourself, did you have someone to debrief
with, did you call someone else for advice?
For a long time, we were required to submit a report every night by telephone as to the
And sometime we had to get approval from the Regional Director to move to mediation if the
situation was questionable as it was, for example, with the factional case involving the different
factions of the Native American tribe that needed a constitution.
Several of the scholars we work with argue that the standard,
white, North American model of mediation is not appropriate in many more traditional cultures.
This comment has most often referred to cultures outside the U.S.; however, I am wondering if
you have run into cultural problems with your approach to mediation?
Obviously my experience did not embrace non-U.S. cultures, but it did involve many
different cultural groups. I didn't feel, and I didn't get the feeling that anybody else felt that
there was a model being imposed--although, obviously, we were using a conventional,
traditional North American mediation model. If any kind of mediation suited them, that was
acceptable to them. I don't think we ever encountered a situation where an alternative model was
proposed, or where the tribal group said we've got a customary way of dealing with this, in
which case obviously we'd have been interested, and would have tried to be responsive.
In one little case, I recall that there was a reference to their customary way of taking a vote or
reaching a consensus on an issue. At dispute was whether a certain election had been properly
handled and how to do the next one if there was going to be one. Offhand, that's the only
recollection I have and that was just with respect to a vote on a given matter. It didn't have to do
with there being an alternative process for dispute resolution.
What about communication styles? Were there situations where
the communication style of one culture was totally different from the other group? Or did
differing communication styles ever cause friction or tension?
I think in one of the cases I described yesterday, I found that the Native American group
responded much more slowly than I was used to. They were almost not forthcoming at all for
considerable periods. The difficulties, from the standpoint of conventional mediators, was
wanting something to happen, or having negotiation move a little bit. I realized that I was kind
of urging it along, nursing it along, and apparently I did it with sufficient patience that nothing
blew and we worked together over a long time. There were also different cultural patterns about
deference to the elders. In many cultures, people will be reluctant to put himself or herself
forward unless the elder has spoken up. But even the elders, I think, had the inhibition in some
situations. I'm by no means an expert on this and my range of experience is not wide enough to
be making any fat generalizations on that point, but those are some perceptions.
Did you ever get people who were on
one side or the other to essentially assist in being mediator? Was there ever any question about
the legitimacy of you, as an outsider, being the primary mediator, or did they just accept that
If we got in a mediation at all, that notion was accepted. We had our standard ground rules
and we'd talk about those they didn't usually pose any problems.
We'd like to go backwards now
fill in some gaps cover some material that we didn't cover yesterday. One thing I wanted to
explore further is the Navajo case that you discussed briefly yesterday that wasn't a clear cut
mediation process. Is that an example of what you do when mediation is not appropriate?
This was a few months after the disengagement at Wounded Knee. One of the young men
who had been there remembered something about the role of the Community Relations Service
and obviously remembered me being there, so he called me again. As you may know, CRS had
gone into Wounded Knee. We had gone through the federal lines and consulted with the Native
Americans there. We did lots of different things as part of our effort to help bring about an
overall resolution of that standoff-- which went on for many weeks.
In the following early September, I received a call from Ft.
in the Navajo Reservation saying there were some serious problems, and there had been a killing
in one of the border communities just outside the reservation, allegedly that a young Navajo man
killed of a deputy sheriff in the parking lot of a convenience store, and that the suspect was on
the run. People on the Navajo reservation were in considerable fear about the kind of reaction the
state police and others might bring to bear--it was a very tense scene. Also, the annual Navajo
nation fair was coming up within a week or so and that there were some serious tensions
surrounding that. There were some problems between members of AIM, the American Indian
Movement, and the Navajo tribal leadership who ran the fair. The fair is the biggest single
event, apparently, on the Navajo annual calendar.
AIM, as well as other Navajo folks, were concerned about this other matter and the possibility of
heavy police presence at the fair. Now, obviously CRS had no role with respect to the law
enforcement scene, or investigation, or anything like that. Our only role would be if there were
fears and tensions based on relations between the Navajo people and police. We were willing to
see if there was anything we could do minimize those tensions and get at some of the sources.
Anyhow I went on down to Window Rock, which is the Navajo capital, and 5 miles from
Window Rock is Fort Defiance which is where some of the AIM folks were headquartered.
It's a long story. There wasn't any major role to play, happily, with regard to the suspect who was
picked up soon without violence. So while that was a very aggravated scene, it was resolved
quickly and was not a problem that we needed particularly to address. However, we did have to address the conflict with AIM. AIM's main demand of the
Navajo people in charge of the big fair, was that they wanted an AIM element to be included in
the all important parade that kicked off the fair, and they wanted AIM to be included in the rest
of the fair as well.
Also, about a week or 10 days later, AIM was planning to hold a big powwow on a ranch within
the Navajo reservation which was owned by the grandmother of one of the young AIM men.
Hundreds of people from outside the reservation had been invited to this event.
The main issue with respect to the powwow was the FBI. Remember, this was only 3-4 months
after Wounded Knee, and AIM was very worried that the FBI would disrupt the powwow. Some
folks might have felt that this was a real paranoia, but this is how they felt.
We talked to the AIM leaders and offered to talk with the FBI. The Navajos have their own
substantial police department too, so we got with the Navajo superintendent of police as well.
He was a very cooperative guy, open to discussion. He didn't feel there was any substance to
AIM's accusations, and everybody else denied it, but the AIM folks were very, very fearful
about this. They insisted there had been some over flights and they thought they had seen people
hiding in the trees of a nearby mesa, so they thought they were being spied on. They thought
somebody was going to come down on their powwow either when it took place or before it took
I noticed out back of the Navajo police headquarters a couple of helicopters and I got an idea. I
called the superintendent and asked what would he think if a couple of the AIM leaders and
maybe himself and I took an unannounced flight to check out the area. The superintendent of
police and the AIM guys agreed, so one late afternoon, the superintendent and my colleague
from CRS and I and at least two of the AIM guys piled into one of these helicopters with a BIA
pilot and took off. It didn't seem to me we took off very rapidly, but we got up and circled
around the mesa top. The trees were so widely spaced that had there been anybody or any cars
or pickups, or any group of people, they would have been clearly visible. But no one was there.
Mission accomplished, I thought. But just as we finished circling the mesa top, the
engine conked out on this helicopter. That's a whole other story, let's just say that happily, the
BIA pilot was fabulous, and he saved our lives. The copter's rotors were clipped off by some
trees during our descent, but we all got out without even a serious bruise.
Anyway, that flight eased the fears about the surveillance, although there were a few theories
about what happened to the helicopter. In the end, AIM did have a unit in the parade, and the
powwow was held and was uneventful. But we were there as they requested, just in case a
problem had arisen, we might have been helpful.
There was another case involving the
Navajo folks and AIM this one between AIM and the city of Gallup. In this one there was a
Native American prisoner being held in Gallup, and AIM was bringing some of its national
leadership in to have a march. I won't try to go into any real account of it, except that it was a
classic case where we were asked to help with a demonstration. AIM wanted to march all the
way from Windowrock to Gallup along the main highway to the federal building. This march
would have covered many miles of highway, and they were worried about the police shooting
Did they want protection?
They wanted us to help provide the lead, to work with the law enforcement agencies to
sure the march went on peacefully. We went in and discussed this, and after they had reflected
more fully on it, they decided that undertaking what would have been a two day march with an
overnight beside the highway, maybe that was a little much. They revised their plans to simply
have a march from a predominantly Indian community center in Gallup some blocks to the
federal building, where there was to be a rally and some speech making.
There was a lot of tension, certainly in official circles, the city council, and the police
department, as you can imagine, and we certainly had our concerns about what might happen
between police and marchers and so on. Several of us went on down we had three of us
working on different aspects of this one. One of the problems was that the AIM folks had not
applied for a permit in time, and the city council was not inclined to budge off that. We worked
around with different folks, including the mayor, and one of the local judges, and had a lot of
conversations with the AIM folks, of course, and we finally did work it out. It was agreed that
the police would be around and available, but would not have a heavy presence close to the
march. We came up with a general plan that was acceptable to everybody,
Did you come up with that plan with the help of the parties?
We worked on every problem that offered itself. For example, the city council and the
backed down and didn't demand the advance permit, so that obstacle was removed. I don't
remember for sure, but we probably made the suggestions, how about this, all these kinds of
things--and eventually it came off ok. And of course we monitored the march and kept an eye
on how it was going, and nothing blew. The rally was held, and speeches were made on the
steps of the federal building, and nobody got hurt.
What you did to reduce tensions when they are high? Did you
ever run into a situation in mediation where things got really tense and you needed to calm them
Sometimes. I was usually able to moderate the situation without any heavy handedness.
Once in a while a certain decisiveness, maybe even standing up and speaking very loudly, was
necessary. That was rare, but I can recall a couple of occasions where that, in my judgment,
became necessary. One was a business mediation, which was kind of unusual for us to do, but a
minority sub-contractor was one of the parties on a big housing development that had been
ninety-seven percent completed. It was a middle income development, and there was an impasse
between this sub-contractor who had some minor finishing work to do and the general contractor
who was not minority. They had some bad blood on various things, various past hassles, and
now they were right at impasse. As I recall, somebody from HUD called us. HUD was involved
in some aspects of the financing and everybody wanted to see the project finished since housing
was a desperate need. The attorneys for the two parties actually were willing to have us give
them a hand.
One of the attorneys handled arrangements and they were willing to move fast, like tomorrow. I
had no chance to study the issue. They were so anxious to get to it, I think it was the attorney for
the minority sub-contractor, that he arranged the meeting room in a major hotel-- normally I
would be doing that. Anyhow, we got into that session quickly.
The minority sub-contractor, the main person, didn't have a bonding capacity or something, he
had some kind of a problem financially, and he had brought in this guy from New York to help
him. We went through the regular opening routine and I explained to these folks, "look, you all
understand that I'm not expert in the contracting business and I've had no chance to study up on
this as there's been no time. You're in a hurry, so you're going to have to educate me as we go
along, and I may have a lot of questions." They agreed, and we got going.
We got fairly well into it but then an impasse developed and people got angry. A gentleman
representing the minority sub-contractor who was six foot three and big strong guy, said angrily,
"I'm not going to take any more of this, you know," and accused the general contractor of
insulting him. "I'm not going to take any of this, this is a waste of time" and he stood up to walk
So I'm at the end of the table and I stood up and said, "Dammit, Mr..., you agreed to the
we were going to take to this, and we are following that approach and I think we can make it, so
please sit down." He paused a moment, and then he sat down. And we got on with it. By the
end of the day we had a deal. As a matter of fact, Mr... was so happy with the deal, he invited
everybody down to a bar at this famous hotel and bought us a round of drinks.
There was one other intra-tribal scene where a lot of folks were present and it was just not
feasible to limit it to a four or five member team. Actually there were several teams from either
side. There was a clan or family grouping, with history behind it, that was very unhappy for
maybe a couple of generations. Some of the other members of the band insisted on being
present. It wasn't public with press, but there was quite a crowd, and that got messy.
People were standing up shouting, and it became pretty difficult to have any orderly process.
After a time trying to keep it on track, I asked for a recess and spoke with some of the folks. I
explained that we had agreed in advance who the people were who were going to handle this,
and I told them that we were not going to be able to pull it off if it continued like it was going. "I
don't want to tell anybody to go home, I can't tell anybody to go home," I said, " but how about
we convene the original group in such and such a room." So we proceeded on that basis. But
that was one case where it was it couldn't have gone anywhere on the basis on which it had
In situations with high tensions, from time to time there would be individuals who would
explode or get close to exploding, but usually we didn't have anything fall apart when that
happened. We were able to have our recess and to caucus and get back on track.
Were there any other instances that you
can think of that you reached impasse?
I remember one big and complex case that did not go to conclusion, but it didn't result in a
blowup. This case had to do with long standing fire department hassles. With much effort over
weeks and weeks and weeks, we had gotten the case into a mediation with all the parties, kind of
a multi-party thing. This one involved representatives of the fire commission, chief-officers
association, the middle and upper lever supervisors of the fire department, the black fire fighters
association and the fireman's union, which was predominately white. Many of the black
firefighters didn't want to belong to the firemen's union, although they were technically
members, because they had no confidence in the union. There had been heavy enmity and some
of them had dropped out of the union. They were one party; Hispanics and Asians did not have
an organization, but we had one representative from each of those groups.
The case went through some early and very difficult stages. We finally got it going and in two
or three fairly lengthy sessions got through the first and easiest of the agenda points. The second
one was the next easiest, or the next more difficult. We were obviously working toward those
which were going to be really rough. Somewhere along in that process the black firefighters
team said that they really didn't have any confidence in what the ultimate result would be and
they decided to break off.
My colleague and I asked for a caucus with them. We had worked with them at great length in
advance of the mediation to help them get their act together, and so we asked for a caucus with
them so we could try to get them back on board. But we couldn't succeed in persuading them to
continue, so the process ended.
There had been earlier court decrees, and there had been unhappiness with the outcomes, and
there was plenty of potential for court action that could happen--and which in succeeding years
did happen. This was a number of years ago, and the situation as of today is a much
happier one in terms of those issues than it was at that time. I don't think there was a lack of
trust in the mediators, but I think there was simply no confidence that the city establishment
would listen or would agree to do something that resulted from mediation.
In your opinion, was it something that could have been worked out through mediation?
Yes, I felt we could. I think that the mayor and the city attorney, who later turned out to be a
very constructive force in the court actions that went on, was consistent all the way through in
supporting the position of the black firefighters. The first point had to do with outreach,
affirmative efforts to do a whole lot more recruiting, and there was no big hassle about that,
everybody agreed to that, even the union was gung-ho for that and had worked out a lot of
specific ideas about what would be done. But some of the other matters were tougher.
Was there ever a time when you advocated the parties skip mediation, and go straight to
Offhand I really don't recall. I wouldn't have advocated that often. But I certainly feel
strongly that if the mediator, or anybody around the scene feels strongly that this is an issue that
really ought to be adjudicated, then maybe I would recommend that. Maybe one of the primary,
fundamental reasons for that would be if there's a constitutional principle or point that can be
made through litigation. I'm sure at various CRS meetings we discussed that from time to time--
there's no way that we would attempt to push it or coax a case into mediation if the attorneys felt
that a case ought to go to court for long term, basic reasons.
What if you saw a situation where you thought that the minority
group would probably do better in litigation than they would through mediation? Would you tell
I don't recall that that happened, but I think I would have asked them to consider that pretty
seriously. I'd suggest "you might do a lot better that way." At the same time, I made the point
that, put very simply, people had nothing to lose if they gave mediation a try. "If it isn't going to
take too much of your time and energy, and it isn't going to take any of your money, why not
give it a try?" That would be our more customary pitch. But if there were some compelling
reason otherwise, I don't think we'd get in the way of litigation.
Going back to where you were with the case that broke down at point three, were you able to
resurrect some sort of agreement on the easier points, where they came to agreement? Were you
able to get them to at least do that, or did they drop whole thing?
The black firefighters group really didn't want any further involvement.
So even the outreach fell apart too?
I don't think anybody negated that, but I'm afraid to say I don't think anybody followed
through on that either. Later on, given the consent decree, they had to.
Did you often handle cases over the phone alone, without going
Oh no. I can't even think of one such case, and certainly not a formal mediation case. But I
think CRS people got quite a bit done over the phone. They didn't try to avoid going on-site if
there were any dollars in the till to get on a plane, and I might add there were some times the
dollars were not in the till. There were some terrible cutback times. There was one period when
there was not any travel money in our regional office and I said frankly so to the BIA office and
to the tribal chairperson that we had enough money that I could get part way there by plane, but
not all the way. So they sent a car out to the point where I had to get off the plane and we went
the other sixty, eighty miles by car to the tribe and we got that case taken care of. We kept
working no thanks to the then political administration.
Was there a time when one party to a conflict asked you to
intervene but the other side didn't want you to come in?
Oh, sure, on conciliation as well as mediation cases, though it's not even a prospect for
mediation unless both parties show some interest or willingness. Let me back up and amend
that. On conciliation cases, CRS didn't have to stay out of a community just because one party
didn't want us to come in. If we felt there was a tension scene that needed attention, we would
do some kind of advance assessment over the phone by talking to as many people as possible to
get some feel for the situation. And if that assessment indicated that we really ought to make
more effort on-site, the regional director or whoever else was supervising the scene would say
"go," and we would go.
How would you deal with the party that didn't want you there?
I don't recall being refused entrance, but there must have been a few times somebody said no
dice, "I really don't want to spend any time with you." Mostly I remember that there would be
reluctance about taking any other step beyond us getting in the door. The plus factor in being in
the Department of Justice was that it helps you get in the door with a sheriff or a police chief
who might otherwise have said, "Who are you?" So we would get in, whether some of the steps
we wanted to have taken would happen or not. A bit of persuasion sometimes helps, and of
course, if the situation was pretty volatile, most conscientious and intelligent officials are going
to want all the help they can get. They're going to want something defused if possible. They
may not have, at the outset, any great interest in rectifying some of the causes of the action, but
CRS would attempt to help them to see some of those underlying factors and hopefully to
address them. In fact we would have no hesitation in pointing out, "Look you know, you can't
just paper this over. We're not just here to quiet the situation, we hope that you have an interest
in preventing and correcting the problem or some of the sources of the problems."
Did you ever run into some people who thought that violence
was the way to go that they would get what they needed that way?
I'm sure there were some who thought that way, but the only ones I recall who picked up
rifle and said "this is the way to go" were one a few young militants. In my experience two or
three young Native American militants in certain situations, who were not the guys who were
representing the community, but were along for the action, might have felt that way. But,
happily, they were not running the show. Most militant folks who wanted to run a march or do
a heavy demonstration were, even if they didn't say so at the outset, were soon quite willing to
say, "Hey we want a peaceful demonstration."
CRS' pitch to everybody was "okay, we could try to help make it peaceful, have it happen, make
it peaceful." And we were involved in some big scenes like that. The L.A. moratorium marches,
back in the early stages of the Vietnam War, were primarily Chicano, but many other people
were also involved in those marches. Now there was some violence, some deaths even, but they
could've been a whole lot worse if the liaison and the sensible working out between various
police departments and the marchers hadn't happened.
Were there any cases you were involved in when you helped
a particular party save face?
I was probably too cautious or sensible a character to promise anything. But it seems to me
it's kind of one of the regular conscious concerns of the process, which is to enable everybody to
be involved. I don't think of it in terms so much as saving face but to have the dignity of being
dealt with directly and straightforwardly. I think it's the mediator's responsibility to try to help
each side understand some of the main feelings and hang ups and positions of the other side. In
my little sermonette at the opening of each mediation I told people, "Look, I know some of you
feel that you've been abused, and you've been offended at the treatment you've had at the hands
some of these folks across the table now, and I know it's a tough thing to ask, but please try to set
that aside for the purpose for which we're here. If you can, we might get something done." I
think however strong the feelings were, there was a lot of responsiveness to that.
The checklist you gave us yesterday suggests that you did try
get the feelings out on the table and deal with them directly. Is that so?
Maybe not always in joint session, although I wouldn't rule that out totally. If it seems
to me, at some point, at a joint session I might say to one party, "Are you aware how Gerald here
feels, what his feelings are in the wake of what happened?"
You tended to do that more in caucus than you would in joint
I think so. You could be a little more blunt in caucus.
Going back to our earlier discussion, I didn't handle any one case entirely by phone, but one of
my first formal mediation cases was handled entirely without a joint session. It was one side and
the other I went back and forth. A resource that was very helpful in that was the local priest.
This priest had helped the Chicano community deal with problems with the sheriff's office. The
priest had done some very good work before we even got in there he was very effective in
helping the community folks. Now I'm thinking about your question about resources--he wanted
to see resolution and he would help all the way up and down the line. The two parties I was
working with as parties were the community group--including the priest, and the sheriff's office.
Did you ever set a limit or deny someone from helping with the mediation process?
I don't think so. And it would've been up to the parties. The main problem that would have
arisen is if someone else wanted to get onto the negotiation team.
When you went into a case in which you were not called, but in which you initiated the
contact, who did you contact first and how did you "get in?"
That would happen, has happened with every CRS worker at one time or another, where we
saw a story or heard something on the radio about community X where something had happened
or people thought something was about to happen. The story hopefully would have a little bit of
information as to what community group was involved and what the issue was. Typically we
would check in with our supervisor, then get on the phone to at least one party or maybe both.
Would you usually call the
community group first, or the sheriff?
That is a good question, because sometimes it could be very sensitive who got called first.
You know I'm not sure there's any fixed rule or practice on that. I think we might have been
more inclined to call the community group first usually. And, of course, if we thought that they
knew us or knew something about us or if we'd had any prior contact, certainly we would've
asked, "What's happening?" Our next question would be, "Can we help?" Then of course we'd
get quickly onto some of the establishment folks and talk to them.
Now if you said, "can we help?" and they said "no, we don't
need help" did you drop it there?
We might have said, "Are you sure? Let's talk about that." We would have explained what
our legal duties are, and what we're not. It's very important to define the agency in its role. It
might be that some group would say, "Well no thanks," but I hardly recall any situation like that.
There must have been some here and there, but then you know the next question is, "is that
group fully representative of the community and are there other folks whom we might probe a
little further?" But if there's a clear cut group, for example, the NAACP branch, I don't think we
really want to go around them. But we might want to get an assessment from the establishment-
types of how serious that scene is. We have a duty to do that. As we read the act, it does place a
legal duty on the agency to do its best to help in a situation. You don't have to wait for an
invitation from anybody.
If you were in a situation where one person or one group didn't want you to come in but you
still felt like it was important, what would you do?
I think this would not be an individual decision. This would be in consultation with the
regional director and maybe with Washington.
How common was it that you or other CRS workers have to
a site more than one time-- say you've gone to one site and developed this strategy to help the
situation, you leave and you think it's all fine and good, but then it goes bad. Did you have to
come back after a case was closed?
Yes, but I don't think CRS was ever able to do enough follow-up on agreements that had
reached. Many of us were interested in that and tried to do some phone calls to find out what
was happening. Of course, where we had a formal agreement we would have provisions for
resolution of new disputes or disputes about the implementation of the agreement would've been
written into the agreement, and that included calling us if they needed to.
On one major case involving a Native American community and a sheriff's department, we
actually had three Native American communities, technically three different tribes, but in the
same general area. With great effort and some initial reluctance on the part of the sheriff to get
into it, he got persuaded to let it happen.
We had a big mediation and came out with a full fledged agreement. This had to do with all
kinds of frictions and tensions between members of the tribe, particularly younger members and
sheriff's deputies that were the law enforcement in the area. We got a good agreement,
announced it publicly and it took effect. Four or five years later, there was a new sheriff. I had
some occasion to talk to the new sheriff who apparently had come up through the department,
but was younger than the old-timer we had dealt with before. He seemed to have some
progressive ideas. I remember asking him how was the agreement going and it became clear to
me he was not very well aware of that agreement. I said, "Wouldn't it be a good idea to maybe
take a look at it, and if necessary, update it?"
The short of the story is he agreed with that and so we went back and in effect did much of it
over again. We reviewed the whole thing as to the progress that had been made point by point,
or had not been made, and we came up with a second new agreement with the new sheriff and
announced it publicly.
If I could just ask you one more question about your follow-up when you say you write into
the agreement that you will keep in contact with that particular group, is there a time-frame in
mind or is it on-going? So if you mediated a case today and said we'll have ongoing contact,
does it become the responsibility of every CRS worker after then to continue with that?
Bear in mind I retired 12 years ago, I don't know how this is handled in CRS in these last
years, except I'm aware that the CRS ranks that were very thin when I was there, are threadbare
today. Even while I was still there, I would say that our resources were so limited we were
trying to hop in all directions. We at one time had small field offices. Now I was operating
always out of the Western region which was Arizona, Nevada, California, and Hawaii (I never
got to Hawaii). We were about to open one office in Phoenix and then, boom, the axe came
down and in due course all the field offices were closed. I don't recall that there was ever a
formal follow up procedure-- which I think many of us felt would have been very desirable. But
it would have been a real press to try to deal with it with our thin ranks. Personally I certainly
strongly agree that there should be some procedure.
Going back earlier in the process, after
you've done your assessment, gone on-site and talked to all the parties, how do you decide when
to bring them together and when to deal with them through shuttle diplomacy?
Well, as I mentioned a moment ago, in one case we never did come together except to
the document which everybody had seen, and come face to face to sign the agreement. But that
was rare. Shuttle diplomacy is very important and very useful, mainly in the get-ready stages.
I don't think I would've forced a joint session unless I thought it would be useful. I
wouldn't have pushed too hard for it, but mostly at some point you were able to get into it,
otherwise it wasn't likely you were going to get a meaningful agreement. Within joint sessions,
though, recesses and caucuses are an essential tool.
In the joint sessions did you do
something to try to get parties to listen attentively to each other and talk civilly to each other?
If I felt that somebody was really not participating, if somebody was overtly making
obstacles, I would try to correct that on the site gently, but as firmly as necessary. If that wasn't
working, we'd go into a caucus on the subject. Folks were pretty well engaged with each other
and with the point. Of course I think a common problem all mediators face is sticking to the
agenda and dealing with one issue at a time. I had no hesitation on insisting that we had agreed
to an agenda and problem statements, it had been agreed to and I would insist we take up one
thing at a time.
I thought of a couple of other cases where I had some community resources. I seem to be only
talking about Native American cases, but there were a few others. I thought of two examples.
One was a tribal hassle. In Arizona there were serious difficulties between two main factions to
the point where an election was in serious contest or they needed to have another election. It
didn't look like it could come off without violence. I think BIA called on us to see if we could
be of any help. We went down and talked with an Interior Department attorney who was helping
BIA on this and who analyzed the scene for us. This is before we got out to the reservation at
I'm not clear on detail, but the resources aspect was how to pull this off. BIA will not supervise
a tribal election. We didn't see that we could directly do that and so somewhere in the course of
the discussion somebody got the bright idea, "Hey, what about the League of Women Voters?"
The idea came up and we all grabbed it. We got in touch with the city and the state heads of the
good old League of Women's Voters and they said sure, they'd be glad to go out and supervise
I went on-site and discussed it with the tribal folks in advance, obviously. There was advance
agreement to it. We didn't want to just let the ladies go out there by themselves. I don't pack a
gun, but I went too. There were provisions for security and we had assurances for all kinds of
things, but it was still a potentially volatile scene. The balloting went on all day and then there
were a few characters who wanted to make some problems, but they got eased out. It was in the
community hall of the reservation. Folks sat around while three women from the League
counted the ballots. I hung around until late that night, until the result was reached and it went
off all right.
Then it was successful then.
Yes. The other resource example was an community in California. An intra-community
conflict arose over an election of leadership of a major organization in the Samoan community.
I had a helper who was on the staff of that county's human relations commission and he had
excellent understanding and background in the Samoan community, which I didn't have, and we
conducted a pretty difficult mediation in one or two sessions with quite a few people around the
table. There were some high tensions in that scene. Apparently one of the cultural givens with
Samoan folks is that you handle a lot of things physically. Some of that practice was threatened
in the course of the mediation. It happened that the little man who was the long time president
of the community organization had a very small build but every other male Samoan present had
a line backer physique. We finally reached an agreement as to how the election would be
conducted with the help of the county human relations commission. It did take place and it came
off with relative peace.
Did you seek out the human relations person?
I don't recall whether they initiated contact with us, or we with them, or we read about it in
the papers and called them. We had great respect for the staff director of the commission who,
I'm happy to say, is still on the job.
So what do you do, or what did you do when you've gotten this
cultural group that wants to take care of things physically?
There was not violence breaking out all over, but there were some kind of threatening words
at times. One of the key actors was a well trained Samoan professional social worker. She, like
all the others, had very strong views. There were these big men who were "talking chiefs"
(which is not quite the top chief in the ranking, but pretty important) and she had whatever it
takes to tell that talking chief whatever she wanted to say to him and vice versa. It was lively.
We had a table arrangement instead of across the table, so that there was a physical distance
between the parties. We were here and the other table was there. It worked. We kept on the
subject. I heard later that it was not atypical that if there was some difficulty between the kids at
school or there was an animosity between a couple of families, a mother walking her child home
might be physically assaulted by another mother. I never heard that weapons were involved,
What do you think are the most important skills or attributes for
a good civil rights mediator and what would you say is your greatest strength?
I noticed in the letter that the director of our agency, at that time Gil Pompa, sent to the
Justice Department in which he was asking I be given a certain special commendation, he said
something like, "His tenacity and his creativity." One of the common terms in a lot of situations
today, real estate, for example, is "creative", creative financing, creative this, creative that. By
which most folks mean that something is a little out of the ordinary or maybe even out on the
edge of things and even questionable. Another term they like to use is "resourcefulness."
Obviously, if you see impasses and problems between folks you try to think of something that
might be useful.
What's the most creative thing you've done?
I'm not sure I can confess that. I don't remember specifics, but I remember my colleague in
that Atlanta case. The case ran over a five week period and with people from the city of Atlanta
and police bureau we would spend hour after hour, night after night in between sessions racking
our brains trying to come up with some breakthrough possibility. But that seems to me that's par
for the course in a difficult case.
Were there any cases that you were involved in or CRS was involved in which you thought
they should not have gotten into or were there any times where you felt hey, we really need to be
in there but you were not for whatever reason?
I'll take the second one first. I thought that CRS should have tried to be a part or to be the
mediation agency in the huge Navajo/Hopi line partition hassle. And when I first heard about
that hassle coming up long, long ago, I made a pitch to our Washington office, but I don't think
anybody pushed it. Top CRS leadership in some situations, I don't think really operated in the
real political world, in the real world in terms of finding your constituencies and finding your
allies and understanding survival, taking opportunities to do the job you're supposed to do.
I would add though that whatever the process of selection was for the mediator for the
Navajo/Hopi case, the man they picked was a retired past head of FMCS Federal Mediation and
Conciliation Service, a man of great reputation, and probably as fine a mediator as you could
find. I don't know him and I don't specifically know his work. He was out of a labor mediation
background -but I'm sure he knocked himself out to try to get something and I'm also not at all
sure that the issues were resolvable.
It's still going on, is it not?
Well, we even worked on some of the residual hassles. I was down there a number of times
for that kind of reason. But not on the central issues. We were down there mainly after the
partition lines had been drawn and the order drawn up for people to be moved. The relocation
process and problems.
I was down there at Big Mountain a lot of the time which is where some of the oldest traditional
Navajo families lived ,who were going to have to be moved, and who weren't going to move, no
way. We were involved in trying to help a little bit on some of the attendant tensions.
The essence of what happened there was that the mediator did convene teams from the Hopi and
Navajo tribes and they worked at it-- I'm sure they must have worked pretty hard at it. Despite
his best efforts they did not make it, did not come to agreement on a partition line between the
two reservations, and under the terms of the legislation that he was operating under, it was then
his job to draw the line or lines.
I guess one of the necessary characteristics a of mediator is to have hope to be a stupid optimist.
You don't know unless you really work it, you don't know if it's really winnable unless you're
into it deep.
What about the other side of that? Where there cases that you were involved in actively and
felt like, hey we shouldn't be here?
I don't recall any that I was personally involved in or that I know of right around here that I
thought we shouldn't have been involved in really.
Is there anything we haven't asked that you would want to add to this tape about your
experience while you were at CRS, or any advice you would give to other mediators?
A lot of the stuff that I think I learned in the course of my experience is reflected in some of
this material that I've given you, as to some of what I think are the essentials in trying to carry
out the process. I should say and maybe others told you this, I think all of us who did mediation
were grateful in the beginning when CRS initiated its formal approach to mediation. There was
a certain point at which it decided to get into formal mediation. Up to that time it had been
informal conciliation stuff and so on, and I think we were all grateful in that beginning go
around for the training that AAA provided in New York. I think we all appreciated that training.
And later, AAA did some training back down in Washington. This must be 18 years ago or
maybe 20. We also had a very fine joint meeting one time between CRS and FMCS mediators
for a day or so down in Atlanta.
In fact some of us got involved in SPIDR. CRS Director Ben Holman had the good sense to
send several of us down to a bi-annual meeting of the FMCS. Some of the guys there had just
the year before founded SPIDR and some of us got interested and became members and were
members for a long time and were active in some things. We put on the national conference out
here at one point and then I helped found and headed the Northern California chapter for a time.
meeting with FMCS people, one of their guys described what they called a "relations by
objectives" approach to dispute resolution. I think it was a fascinating program. I expressed a
lot of interest in it and was able to sit in on one of their sessions, a quite ambitious undertaking
that took a couple of days. It was an in depth approach to trying to deal with problems between
two parties before they reach crisis stage. It was used to address a whole range of ongoing
problems and try to establish relations that would be better for the future. The sessions I
attended were in the Claremont (CA) area, and involved the middle and top managers of a steel
plant, the union guys, the foreman and the works. Actually a whole lot of people are essentially
doing this in one form or another now, but it was new to us at the time. The basic pattern is get
all the folks together, get a lot of technical help, and you break into smaller groups at some point
which are equally representing both sides. You run down all of the problems that anybody sees
and feels and then you ask the questions consecutively on each side. What do you think these
other guys should do about this problem? What do you think you should do about it? Then you
go to the other side and you ask them the same questions.
It was good to start with, and then of course you get this whole list laundry list of problems,
recommendations and so on, and you work your staff like crazy to consolidate something and get
it together and you try to come out with a comprehensive program. Not just a program but time
tables, responsibilities for implementation, the works! Very hard boiled, very realistic.
I encouraged somebody up the line about this-- I think it was Gil Pompa. at some point- to look
this over very carefully and see if it might have usefulness to CRS. At one of our staff meetings
I made a presentation on all this and my pitch for our applying it in special situations. I
suggested that we call it "Joint Problem Solving." It never became a big thing throughout the
agency as a whole, but lo and behold, later on, in this region we did do a substantial job with a
high school using this approach.
We went in and did just that kind of a program. This was a high school with a multi ethnic
student body and with a whole bunch of problems including a deteriorating building. The school
had a very progressive open black principal, a terrific guy, who was willing to accept the help of
an agency like ours. We went in and discussed the whole idea. We had some good sessions
with him. He sat down with us and it was decided, "Yes, let's give this approach a try" with the
students, faculty, parents, administration and counselors at this high school. We took some
pretty careful consideration of how we would do this, but essentially we followed those same
In this case the problem identification was done on a segregated basis. The black students,
Chicano students and so on in the first go around in the first day met together to identify their
problems. Then of course we mixed it up the next day and to ask the questions and so on what
should we do, what should you do. We got some parent involvement-- not quite as good as we
wanted-- but some pretty fair parent involvement and came up with a specific overall program
which presumably the school would go on to implement.
Was it specifically on racial issues at the school or did it include problems between faculty
and teachers that were unrelated to racial issues?
I would say not those, although if problems like those came up they weren't ignored. For
example there weren't enough counselors, which is true everywhere. There were serious
problems with the shape of the building and the bathrooms and stuff like that. These were
problems everybody raised, so they were all part of the problem list.
So when you went in initially, how did you describe what you were looking for? Did you
any problems relating to the school or were you more specific than that?
I don't think we got specific about that. I think everybody was conscious there were
between students and teachers, students and administration, and they are among students with
each other to some extent. Anything and everything could go into the agenda. I understand that
after I left the agency there was another case in southern California where the agency went in
and pulled it off again. Julian can tell you, he would know, if you want to pursue that at all, they
might have done it several times. It's kind of a big undertaking.
If we ask him about it will he recognize the term "relationship by objective?"
Just refer to the first case we did which was at a high school in Stockton. That's the one that
was involved in, and that's the only one we did while I was still at the agency. It was pretty
much my baby as to putting it all together, along with the late Bill Briggs, our main guy on