Page One

Appointee removed from disabled commission

By Daniela Mohor Daily Planet staff
Friday August 10, 2001

After years serving on the Commission on Disability, Karen Craig, one of Berkeley’s most vocal advocates for the disabled community was informed through a letter from Councilmember Linda Maio on Wednesday, that she had been removed from her position. 

Maio who appointed Craig in 1997, chose Robert Allamand, a member of the disabled community involved in the Personal Assistant Crisis Team, to replace Craig. PACT is a collection of organizations trying to address the shortage of attendants for disabled individuals in Berkeley. 

Berkeley rules make commissioner’s initial appointments valid until Nov. 30 of the following year. After that period of time, they can be replaced, reappointed or stay at the will of the official who appointed them. According to Maio’s office, Craig was serving at the will of Maio, who had therefore complete freedom to replace her at any time.  

Maio is currently on vacation and was not available for comment Thursday. But councilmember Dona Spring, who recommended Craig’s replacement on the commission, said that Maio’s decision was the consequence of Craig’s tendency to obstruct the City Council’s policies. She particularly blamed Craig for her opposition to the city’s decision last year to renew its contract with Easy Does It, an organization providing emergency services to the disabled community. 

“She has wanted to micromanage emergency services even after the council had made a decision that is different,” said Spring. “Craig has been most obstinate and at times rude to city staff and members of the board of directors of Easy Does It. That doesn’t reflect well on disability issues and has created an unresolvable conflict.” 

Leslie Gordon, interim director of EDI, confirmed that the organization had difficulties interacting with Craig in the past, but wouldn’t comment on their nature. However, in a July 14 e-mail sent to Maio, Jesse Townley, the former director of EDI, characterized Craig as “uniformly hostile, rude and unwilling to consider viewpoints divergent from her own,” and petitioned for her replacement. 

Craig, confirmed that the only reason for her replacement mentioned in the letter was the disagreement over EDI. However, she doesn’t believe that it is Maio’s true motivation. “They’re using EDI as the reason and I don’t believe that that is the reason at all,” she said Thursday afternoon. “This is a done deal. I think it’s much more that I stood up at the State of the People address and talked about the fact that we’re not No. 1 on disability stuff anymore.” Craig also said that since January she had met on different occasions with members of EDI and had established a good relationship with them.  

Most of the Commission on Disability appointees said they regretted Maio’s action. Many of them said they had sent letters asking Maio to reconsider her decision. They praised Craig for her dedication, her outspokenness, and her ability to reach out to the community. 

“Karen is an absolutely fabulous activist and advocate for all kinds of disabilities,” said commissioner Emily Wilcox. “Her work has been extraordinarily valuable in the city.” Wilcox suggested that the EDI issue was not a valid reason to replace Craig. “The commission’s work and the projects that Karen works on are so much bigger than EDI,” she said. “EDI is important, but we are not the commission on EDI.” 

Commissioner Charles Betcher also deplored Craig’s removal. “It’s a great loss to the disabled community,” he said . “Karen is very forthright and fearless in her expressions and perhaps some people don’t like her honesty, perhaps it’s not political enough for them.”