Parvez Ahmed confirmed by Council Rules Committee
The City Council Rules Committee confirmed the reappointment of Parvez Ahmed to the Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, despite intentions by the committee chair to defer action until March.
Ahmed, a Muslim, was first appointed to the commission in 2010 amid heavy debate among Council members and community groups because of alleged ties to terrorist organizations, among other opposition.
He is a University of North Florida associate professor of finance and has been named a U.S. Fulbright Scholar.
The committee also voted to reappoint Susan Harthill and appoint Mario Ernesto Decunto.
Rules Committee Chair Clay Yarborough sent an email Friday to Mia Jones, Mayor Alvin Brown's liaison for City boards and commissions, expressing his intent to defer action on each pending appointment and reappointment until legislation about the makeup of the commission could be considered.
Council member Matt Schellenberg has introduced legislation to decrease the size of the commission from 20 to 11 members, which would eliminate pending appointments. He said the legislation is meant to promote efficiency and not block Ahmed's reappointment.
Rules Committee member John Crescimbeni said the issues were separate and appealed Yarborough's decision, calling a deferral "a continued embarrassment to this city."
The appeal was upheld with a 4-3 vote. Crescimbeni, Lori Boyer, Jim Love and Warren Jones supported the appeal and Yarborough, Robin Lumb and Ray Holt opposed it.
The same votes were cast for Ahmed's reappointment.
Lumb was the most vocal critic of the appeal. Lumb said because he was not on Council during the initial appointment, he had asked Brown's administration to have Ahmed present for questions.
Lumb called the notion of a "rubber stamp" of reappointing Ahmed "absurd" when there were eight new Council members and that he had planned to ask Ahmed "a number of questions."
Those questions related to clarification of Ahmed's stance on antiblasphemy laws and other stands he had while the chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
As a commission member with an attendance record above 75 percent, Ahmed was not required to attend the meeting for his reappointment.
Jones and Crescimbeni said Council members have the ability to talk to Ahmed on their own. Jones said there was no need to "rehash what we did 2010" and that "Jacksonville is bigger than that, better than that."
"He has a record in three years," Jones said. "We haven't heard a peep about concerns."
Lumb said the appointment process "could be described as tainted in 2010" and a better job could have been done.
Harthill and Decunto both passed on 6-1 votes, with Lumb in opposition, citing a "vote of no confidence."
A commission reappointment for Dane Grey was withdrawn.
The full Council could vote on the appointments, possibly Tuesday.