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AIDS Officials Reinstated in a Call for Healing


LEAD: In an effort to end turmoil in New York City's Human Rights Commission, its chairman reversed himself on Friday and reinstated the top two officials in the AIDS Discrimination Division.

In an effort to end turmoil in New York City's Human Rights Commission, its chairman reversed himself on Friday and reinstated the top two officials in the AIDS Discrimination Division.

The chairman, Dr. John E. Brandon, removed the two, Keith O'Connor and Kathryn L. Taylor, in October, prompting charges of discrimination by supporters of the two and of Dr. Brandon. Many AIDS and gay rights organizations protested the removals; commission officials and staff members were divided, and a subcomittee of its board conducted an inquiry and recommended reinstatement.

Two weeks ago Dr. Brandon reinstated Mr. O'Connor as director of the AIDS division. He had demoted and transferred him. But Dr. Brandon did not reinstate Ms. Taylor, whom he had dismissed, to her position as Mr. O'Connor's deputy. Instead, he rehired her but assigned her to another part of the agency.

The controversy continued, culminating last week in a unanimous vote of the agency's board to urge the chairman to reconsider. He agreed. 'Must Be a Model' for Harmony

On Friday, Dr. Brandon restored Ms. Taylor to her original post and issued a statement calling for healing within the agency. Because the Human Rights Commission is responsible for promoting public harmony, he said, the agency "must be a model" for resolving differences.

Mr. O'Connor and Ms. Taylor said they were pleased to return to their duties. In a meeting with Dr. Brandon and other officials, all agreed to abide by agency procedures, adopt revised internal lines of authority, meet regularly to improve communication and cooperate in planning activities by the AIDS division.

The division had been widely praised as a strong program within an agency criticized for a backlog of cases and accused of being ineffective. Dr. Brandon was brought in to help reorganize the division as called for by a review panel appointed by Mayor Edward I. Koch.

Dr. Brandon has declined to say why he dismissed Ms. Taylor and demoted and transferred Mr. O'Connor, but people in the agency say a variety of factors led to his decision. 'They're Both Right'

Burt Neuborne, who headed the commission's inquiry into the dispute, said it reflected a philosophical difference over how to handle AIDS cases. He contrasted the approach of Mr. O'Connor and Ms. Taylor, who are community organizers and advocates, with that of the agency's lawyers, who favor litigating discrimination complaints. The lawyers are led by the agency's deputy commissioner for law enforcement, Rolando Acosta.

"They're both right," Mr. Neuborne said, noting that the agency needs to use both techniques.

After long interviews with people involved in the dispute, the commission's subcommittee rejected claims by Mr. O'Connor, who is gay, and Ms. Taylor, who is a lesbian, that they were forced out because of discrimination. Similarly, the panel rejected as unfounded allegations that the two officials, who are white, failed to reach out to minority AIDS sufferers who are victims of bias.

The charges of homophobia and racism were especially sensitive in an agency responsible for preventing discrimination.

Others in the agency said poor communication and faulty procedures contributed to misunderstandings, as did clashing management styles and sometimes abrasive personalities.

Dr. Brandon's statement said that "while some things could have been handled differently, we are a much better and stronger agency as a result of these events."


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Information in this article was accurate in December 3, 1989. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.