Wichita Civil Rights Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The Wichita Civil Rights Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (CREEOC) - also known as the Wichita Civil Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Wichita Civil Rights / EEO Commission - was an agency of the government of the City of Wichita, Kansas, active in the 1970s and 1980s, led by a volunteer board of civic leaders, appointed to oversee the operations of the Wichita Civil Rights / EEO Office, to investigate and review cases of alleged unlawful discrimination, monitor the implementation of the city's equal opportunity policies, and promote civil rights and equal employment opportunity for all populations in the City of Wichita.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]



Under Ordinance No. 34-693, adopted by the Wichita Board of City Commissioners on October 26, 1976,[3][4] CREEOC was assigned responsibility for the combined roles of its two predecessor organizations, from which CREEOC was formed in 1976. Those two prior organizations were:[2][3][4]

  • Wichita Commission on Civil Rights (WCCR)[10] (often incorrectly referred to as the "Wichita Civil Rights Commission"), an agency formed in 1972, charged with enforcing Wichita's Civil Rights Ordinance, which forbade various forms of discrimination in government and public accommodations[2][3][4][11]
  • The Wichita Equal Employment Opportunity / Affirmative Action Board (EEO/AA Board), an agency oversight board, formed in 1974, charged with enforcing the City's EEO and Affirmative Action performance requirements for recipients of City money and aid, such as vendors, employment agencies and recipients of subsidies and concessions[2][3][4]

The staff of the new agency, initially referred to as the "Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity Office," were partially funded through federal CETA funds, and drawn from the City's Human Rights Division—an office that had previously provided staff support to the WCCR and had worked on police-community relations (PCR) issues. The rest of the Human Rights Division was reassigned to serve the City Manager, directly, on PCR issues.[4]



The official goals of CREEOC were to "eliminate and prevent discrimination, segregation and separation in all places of public accommodations, housing and employment because of race, religion, color, sex, physical handicap, national origin or ancestry, and marital status as authorized by the City Code."[5][6]

To attain that goal, the CREEOC performed two complementary functions:[5][6]

  • The Civil Rights function involved the intake, investigation and analysis of discrimination complaints—as well as conferences, conciliations, or public hearings upon findings of probable cause.[2][5][6]
  • The EEO function involved reviewing and monitoring the businesses and organizations having contracts or agreements with the City of Wichita, to determine if their employment practices were non-discriminatory, and were applied equally to all applicants and employees.[2][3][5][6]

The responsibility of this organization was to carry out the city's adopted policies directed at civil rights and equal employment opportunity. This office assisted in the drafting and filing of civil rights complaints related to employment, housing and public accommodations.[2][3][5][6][9]

The responsibility of the program in 1979 included the review of all Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) programs submitted by vendors of the City, or by agencies in contract with the City. In addition to the review of EEO programs submitted to the city by its contractors and vendors, this office was responsible for monitoring those adopted EEO programs to determine and track their compliance with City requirements.[2][3][5][6]

By 1983, CREEOC had also been assigned responsibility for providing staff support to two other city advisory boards: the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on the Status of Handicapped People. Part of the Executive Director's salary was accordingly paid from federal funds for that purpose.[8]

Organization and authority


The CREEOC office and its staff included a paid Executive Director (originally Jesse Rice,[3][12][5][6][13] later Annie Montgomery[14][15][16]), overseeing 9 to 11 staffers[2] (later reduced to 5), including investigators, compliance specialists and administrative personnel.[5][6]

A 10-member volunteer commission (multi-racial and dual-gender) oversaw the CREEOC office and its staff.[3] George Boyd served as its first chairperson,[3] followed by Kathy Pearce.[17][18]

The CREEOC commissioners were assigned to review civil rights complaint cases, following investigation by staff, and—on rotating assignments—commissioners had individual authority to rule on probable cause in the individual civil rights cases assigned to them, with authority to refer such cases to the City Attorney (or District Attorney in the case of offenses by the City government) for prosecution.[5][6]

Wichita was the first city in Kansas to adopt the Kansas Act Against Discrimination by reference (incorporate it into local law). This act provided enforcement authority for the local civil rights commission in the areas of employment, public accommodations, and housing. CREEOC—according to a July, 1980 review by the Kansas Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights—had "identical investigative and remedial authority to that of the State commission" (KCCR).[9]



Though developed to address community civil rights and minority issues during a period of exceptional racial tensions and community conflict, CREEOC was largely preoccupied with its own internal battles, and battles with other offices of city government, and played an unexpectedly minor role in the community issues it was designed to address.[3][9][13][17][19][20]

Community troubles


During the late 1970s, a period of major troubles in police-community relations (including riots with police[21][22])[9][23] - and troubles in both external and internal race relations in local law enforcement agencies (particularly the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office)[9][24][25] - CREEOC generally stayed on the sidelines.[9]

CREEOC chose not to investigate the "systemic discrimination" allegations made by 18 minority police officers against the Wichita Police Department, and observed a policy of not investigating cases involving the physical use of force—saying it had no authority in that area—leaving that to other local, state and federal agencies pursuing those issues.[9]

Internal troubles


In 1978, CREEOC attempted to extract its administrative office from the normal city hiring/firing protocol, by asking the City Commission to authorize CREEOC to hire and fire its own Executive Director. The May 31 CREEOC meeting, to consider making that request, aroused concern when the staff failed to provide the legally required advance public notice of the meeting, in violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act - the second time in two months that such a violation had occurred.[26]

CREEOC's chief staffer, its black Executive Director Jesse Rice, sued the City of Wichita, its City Manager Gene Denton, and its Police Chief Richard LaMunyon, alleging racial discrimination in pay, and alleging retaliation for Rice's aid to another city employee who had filed a discrimination complaint.[3][13][19]

The trial became complicated by interconnection with a police lieutenant, fired from the Wichita Police Department, who was also pursuing a wrongful-termination / civil rights lawsuit against the city[20] (later won in Federal District Court[27]). The officer later testified to alleged spying on CREEOC Director Rice by city police on the orders of the City Manager and Police Chief (charges denied).[20][28]

On February 7, 1979, during a CREEOC board meeting, Rice engaged in heated arguments with two of the commissioners over his office's reports, telling Commissioner Richard Harris to "shut up," then refused to answer questions from those two. Another commissioner alleged that Harris and a fellow commissioner were "racists."[3][17]

When commissioners discussed a process for their annual evaluation of Executive Director Rice, Harris pulled out a copy of Rice's prior evaluation form, which had been acquired by another commissioner (allegedly from the public records of the city clerk's office). When Harris attempted to point out a part of it to fellow board members, Rice grabbed it from him in a brief struggle. Though Harris and other board members demanded Rice return the document, he refused, threatened immediate legal "retaliation" against Harris and possibly other board members, and "stormed" out of the meeting, taking a tape recorder and tapes of the meeting (both owned by the City) and dismissing the secretary who was taking the minutes of the meeting.[3][17]

On February 9, 1979, Rice was fired by Wichita City Manager Denton, for "flagrant insubordination" for his alleged conduct at the February 7 CREEOC board meeting, and for withholding the tapes of the meeting.[3] Three of the four black members of the CREEOC board resigned in protest of Rice's firing.[3] The local NAACP president and some other community activists denounced the firing. Rice himself responded by adding his firing to the lawsuit charges, filed in federal court.[28][13][20][29][18][30]

After two years' litigation, the suit was defeated, and Rice's attorney, Fred Phelps, Sr., was disbarred by the state courts, and censured by the federal courts (largely for conduct related to the Rice case).[31][32]

Reorganization and restriction


Following the controversy with Rice, the Wichita Board of City Commissioners voted to reduce the CREEOC budget, and ultimately to reorganize the office, and—by 1984—combine it with the Community Grievance Office, to form the Wichita Citizens Rights and Services Division (CRS), and converted the CREEOC board into the Wichita Citizens Rights and Services Board—a purely advisory entity—withdrawing the commissioners' authority to rule on probable cause in civil rights cases, changing the agency's role from "enforcement" to "conciliation." CREEOC's new Executive Director, Annie Montgomery, was retained as the CRS Executive Director.[14][33][34][35][16]


  1. ^ Piscotte, Joe P., Director, et al., A Primer on Wichita and Sedgwick County Governments," September, 1979, Center for Urban Studies, Wichita State University, retrieved August, 2015
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Eick, Gretchen Cassel, Prof. of History (Friends University), Dissent in Wichita: The Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest, 1954-72, 2001, University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0252026837, 9780252026836
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q McNeely, Jack: "Doomsday..." (page 1B) and "Civil RIghts Case Case..." (page 7B), December 6, 1981, Wichita Eagle, retrieved March 14, 2023
  4. ^ a b c d e f City of Wichita Annual Budget 1977 City of Wichita, Kansas, retrieved May 10, 2017
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j City of Wichita Annual Budget 1979 City of Wichita, Kansas, retrieved May 10, 2017
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j City of Wichita Annual Budget 1980 City of Wichita, Kansas, Adopted August, 1979, retrieved May 10, 2017
  7. ^ 1982 Annual Budget City of Wichita, Kansas, retrieved May 10, 2017
  8. ^ a b 1983 Annual Budget City of Wichita, Kansas, Adopted August, 1982, retrieved May 10, 2017
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Police-Community Relations in the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County, July 1980, "A report of the Kansas Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights prepared for the information and consideration of the Commission," National Institute of Justice, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D. C 20531, as archived by the National Criminal Justice Referral Service (NCJRS), retrieved May 10, 2017; also at Office of Justice Programs, retrieved March 13, 2023
  10. ^ "Bush v. City of Wichita", Ravel Law, retrieved May 10, 2017
  11. ^ Associated Press (AP), "Wichita Civil Rights Group Slaps Club,", September 15, 1974, Leavenworth Times, p.15, Leavenworth, Kansas retrieved May 10, 2017
  12. ^ "Wichita bishop vows to ignore gay law," October 16, 1977, Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, page 124, retrieved May 10, 2017
  13. ^ a b c d United Press International (UPI), "Wichita civil rights director sues the city," October 25, 1978, Salina Journal, Salina, Kansas, page 5, retrieved May 10, 2017
  14. ^ a b Associated Press (AP), "SCHOOL MASCOT: Fight over 'Redskins' moves past principal; American Indians ask Wichita's civil rights board to investigate," December 10, 1996, Salina Journal, Salina, Kansas, page 10, retrieved May 10, 2017
  15. ^ Stumpe, Joe, "Beautillion program marking 40 years of uplifting young black men," March 26, 2015. Wichita Eagle newspaper, retrieved May 25, 2017
  16. ^ a b "Our Pastor and First Lady," Tabernacle Bible Church, Wichita, Kansas, retrieved May 23, 2017
  17. ^ a b c d Fontenot, Reg: "Civil Rights Meeting Not So Civil," February 8, 1979, Wichita Eagle, Wichita, Kansas Page 1C; continued, in same issue, as "Civil Rights Director Storms Out of Meeting," page 3C, retrieved from Newspapers.com July 14, 2021
  18. ^ a b Fontenot, Reg: "3 of 4 Blacks Resign CREEOC Positions," March 08, 1979, Wichita Eagle, Wichita, Kansas Page 1A, retrieved from Newspapers.com, July 13, 2021
  19. ^ a b Brown, judge, Rice v. City of Wichita, No. 78-4280 (D.Kan., unpublished, 10/29/79)
  20. ^ a b c d United Press International (UPI), "Former civil rights director says he was fired because he's black," December 11, 1981, Salina Journal, Salina, Kansas, Page 20, retrieved May 10, 2017
  21. ^ report of "serious racial riot" at 21st and Grove in northeast Wichita, April 22, 1980, April 23, 1980, Wichita Eagle page 1, as summarized in Tihen Notes, Special Collections Dept., Ablah Library, Wichita State University, retrieved May 10, 2017
  22. ^ Hohl, Paul, "Wichita Police Seek Tighter Controls at Rock Concerts," May 5, 1979, Billboard magazine, as depicted in GoogleBooks, retrieved May 10, 2017
  23. ^ Editorial, July 18, 1979, Wichita Eagle newspaper
  24. ^ article, June 25, 1979, Wichita Eagle newspaper
  25. ^ article, June 27, 1979, Wichita Eagle newspaper
  26. ^ "Meeting Scratched," June 10, 1978, Hutchinson News in NewspaperArchives.com, page 75, retrieved July 13, 2021
  27. ^ Theis, District Judge, "Sheldon WULF, Plaintiff, v. The CITY OF WICHITA, Gene Denton, individually and as City Manager of the City of Wichita, and Richard LaMunyon, individually and as Chief of Police of the City of Wichita, Defendants. Civ. A. No. 81-1307," July 24, 1986, 644 F. Supp. 1211 (1986)
  28. ^ a b "National News Briefs" December 10, 1981, UPI Archives, United Press International (UPI), retrieved March 14, 2023
  29. ^ "Black Leaders: Bus Rerouting Unfair; Rice Firing Slap in Face," February 11, 1979, Wichita Eagle, Wichita, Kansas Page 1B, retrieved from Newspapers.com, July 13, 2021
  30. ^ Associated Press (AP), "Three Resign In Protest," March 10, 1979, Garden City Telegram, Garden City, Kansas Page 5, retrieved May 10, 2017
  31. ^ "In the Matter of Fred W. PHELPS, Sr., Respondent. No. 85-2126," 669 F.Supp. 1047 (1987), United States District Court, D. Kansas, September 11, 1987, as transcribed at Leagle.com, retrieved May 11, 2017; also at: [1], retrieved July 13, 2021
  32. ^ "In the Matter of Disciplineary Proceedings of PHELPS No. 81-1022," 637 F_2d 171 (1981), as transcribed at Leagle.com, retrieved May 11, 2017
  33. ^ City of Wichita Annual Budget 1984-85 City of Wichita, Kansas, retrieved May 10, 2017
  34. ^ City of Wichita 1994/1995 Annual Budget, City of Wichita, Kansas, pp.108-109, retrieved May 10, 2017
  35. ^ "Civil Rights Directory, State and Local Agencies - Kansas," U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, retrieved May 10, 2017

See also

  • Kansas Commission on Civil Rights (KCCR), which served a similar role for all of Kansas. CREEOC was largely patterned on KCCR, and KCCR worked with CREEOC on various matters, and the two organizations referred cases to each other, depending upon jurisdictional issues.