Update: This article has been edited on 7/19/2020 for brevity and clarity. Our apologies for the confusion.
The disability community of Rochester, New York submitted an open letter to the Board of Directors of the Center for Disability Rights [CDR] and Regional Center for Independent Living [RCIL] with demands for accountability for the Chief Executive Officer’s misconduct and zero oversight on the Board’s part. The letter makes it clear that both organizations have shown a lack of integrity, and it lists what actions community members expect to be taken–including the removal of the CEO and President: Bruce Darling.
The letter begins with a 9 page summary of concerns that the disability community in the region has for CDR and RCIL, and its overall message is both organizations need to restore their integrity of CDR and RCIL so disabled community members can continue to receive the services/support they need. One incident mentioned in the letter is Darling’s xenophobic comments in a widely shared 2019 video, and it was described as a “smoking gun” that should have been enough to remove Darling from his position with RCIL and CDR.
@ADAPTerBruce, Prez of the Board of @NCILAdvocacy, previewed the racist tirade he plans to give at the NCIL conference next week; “he promised to attack @TheDemocrats as ‘caring more about people who are not legally in this country than their own citizens who are disabled” (Matthew Cortland)
As the President on the Board of Directors for the National Center for Advocacy [NCIL] at the time, Darling publicly and actively pitted the disability community against the immigrant community; by doing so, he was stoking the flames of white supremacy. Cortland also said that Darling was erasing the existence of disabled immigrant community members dying under the custody of the United States’ Customs and Border Protection custody. NCIL’s response was swift with the removal of Darling from his position.
In a Facebook vlog, Catherine Stutzman shares that she had to leave her position “fairly suddenly” mainly because of Darling’s toxic behavior as the CEO. “One thing we all agree on is that this letter is necessary,” Stutzman stated in reference to the group of stakeholders involved in the development of the letter, and she reiterated how important it is for everyone to stand together in bringing attention to the disability community’s needs. The removal of Darling is just the first step, and five other critical items have been listed in the letter. (To read the open letter, click on the link in the following paragraph.)
“These six critical items must be attended to if the pattern of destruction of CDR & RCIL is to be reversed. We believe that none among them is a greater priority than the removal of Mr. Darling. This Board should be ashamed for not having changed leaders and direction long ago. You have lost the confidence of the Disability Community, the Greater Rochester community, and so many committed staff members who firmly believe in the vision and mission of RCIL and CDR.” (Open Letter to CDR and RCIL)
The remaining 13 pages are name signatures and roles of consumers, former employees and contractors, and other community members. Do you want to stand in solidarity with the community members in this letter? Your signature is valued and much needed. “We invite consumers, community members, current and former employees, members of the Disability Community, and any other stakeholders or interested parties to sign on to this open letter.” (Add your signature to the letter here)