Human Relations Commission


The City of Youngstown's Human Relations Commission (HRC) serves as the investigative body for complaints of discrimination in the areas of fair housing and fair employment. In addition to this, the HRC acts an advisor to the office of the Mayor and City Council in the areas of public policy, legislation, human services, and human rights.

Human relations shall mean those activities which promote human dignity, equal opportunity, and harmony among the many different citizens who make up the population of the City of Youngstown. This definition shall include those activities and programs classified as promoting the general wellbeing of citizens without regard to race, color, creed, gender, age, sexual orientation, or national origin in their daily activities.

In the near future, the City of Youngstown Human Relations Commission will expand its scope of services to foster change and growth in the areas of education, rights for returning citizens, and business development within the City of Youngstown.

Coming Soon:

  • HRC City Youth Council
  • Certification of Qualification for Employment (CQE) Application Assistance
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Expanded Presence
  • Minority Business Assistance Center (MBAC)

Complaints of Discrimination

It is found that prejudice and discrimination against any individual or group because of race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex place of birth, age, marital status or handicap is inimical to American tradition of equality of opportunity for all, and menaces peace and public welfare; that to eliminate such prejudice and discrimination an instrumentality of government should be established through which the residents of the City may be kept informed of denials within the City of such equality of opportunity and may seek enforcement of the rights secured by Section 547.01 and 547.07 and developments which promote such equality. From this instrumentality the elected and appointed officials, and the departments of this City may obtain expert advice and assistance in adopting those measures to keep peace and good order and harmony among the residents of the City, to bring about and maintain harmony, to avoid inter-group tensions, to promote tolerance and goodwill and to insure equality of treatment and opportunity to all regardless of race, color, sex, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, age, marital status or handicap. (Ord.86-142).

Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Complainant

Click to download Fair Housing brochure (PDF)

The Youngstown Human Relations Commission accepts complaints of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or ancestry of birth in the areas of:

  • Fair Employment
  • Fair Housing

Any persons who believe themselves hurt by a discriminatory act or practice may phone or visit the Human Relations Commission office, and tell us the facts regarding the discriminatory complaint. Complaints may be filed within 180 days or six months of the date the discriminatory act occurred. If the Human Relations Commission has jurisdiction we will proceed.

How to File a Complaint

To file a complaint of discrimination with the Human Relations Commission please call our office at (330) 259-9063 or visit us at 25 E. Boardman Street, Suite 527, Youngstown, OH 44503. You may also download the following form, fill it out and mail or FAX (330.259.9064) it to our office.

The Human Relations Commission staff will assist you in writing a brief outline describing the facts, and word a charge of violation of local civil rights law or policy, on a form, which requires your notarized signature. At this time, you would give the Commission staff person all the details and answer all questions as fully as you can. Names, dates, places, addresses and details of what happened should be as accurate as possible. Documents such as employee handbooks, policy/procedures, and documented facts can help to support charges of discrimination. If you have witnesses, it's important to give full names, and how the Commission staff can contact them.

The Investigation

The Commission staff will seek a response from persons you name in your complaint, who become the "Respondent". Staff interviews witnesses who have been specified, and others who have knowledge of the facts. Support documents are also collected. The Commission staff may ask that you clarify some aspects of your complaint in regard to new information gathered. Should you learn or remember any additional information, notify the Commission staff immediately.

Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Respondent

You, as the "Respondent" (that is, the person or organization responding to the charge of discrimination made in the complaint) will be given every opportunity to ask questions, provide information and offer witnesses. The Human Relations Commission attempts at all times to protect you from unfounded charges of discrimination.

The Human Relations Commission procedure is administrative. In an investigation, the Human Relations Commission may request access to premises, records, and documents relevant to the complaint, and has the right to examine, photograph and copy evidence. Your cooperation in an objective investigation can assure you of a fair decision on the complaint.

The Human Relations Commission prefers to work with you, but reserves the right to refer complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC).


What to Expect

The Human Relations Commission has the authority to decide whether or not the complaint is justified. After studying a written report of the investigation, the Commission may find:

  • Probable Cause, and begin a conciliation process.

    The Commission holds informal meetings with the respondent and the complainant to work out terms and conditions to eliminate discriminatory practices. If a satisfactory voluntary agreement can be reached, the respondent is required to sign a written conciliation agreement. When there is no satisfactory voluntary settlement, the Commission staff may call for a hearing officer to hear the complainant and respondent. Documents are filed as evidence, and testimony under oath is heard.

  • No Probable Cause, and dismiss the complaint.

During the formal hearing:

  • No discrimination occurred and dismiss the complaint; or
  • Discrimination occurred and issues a request that the respondent end the discriminatory practice.

Human Relations Commission Workforce Database

Click to register with the Workforce Database

The City of Youngstown provides tax abatements and other incentives to a number of companies operating within its city limits under the stipulation that these companies take measures to hire a set percentage of Youngstown residents. Some companies have struggled to meet the required hiring guidelines and some citizens have found it difficult to connect with those same companies when positions become available. The Human Relations Commission Workforce Database has been created to assist companies currently receiving tax abatements and/or other incentives with finding and hiring qualified workers that fit the criteria set forth by the Tax Incentive Review Committee. Individuals seeking employment will be able to register with the workforce database through the Human Relations Commission. This can be done either electronically through the City of Youngstown website or via paper application at various community centers, academic institutions, religious institutions, and other entities that provide community services. Those that register will also be able to upload scanned copies of their credentials, such as resumes, diplomas, and certifications from various skilled and technical trades, using the City of Youngstown’s website. When job openings become available, the HRC will be able to provide a list of potential qualified candidates to fill the vacancy. Please follow the link below to begin the registration process.

Register with the Workforce Database

Meet the Commission

Jonathan Bentley, Executive Director

(2012 to present)

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Jonathan A. Bentley was appointed as Executive Director of the Human Relations Commission in September of 2012. He has attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the Ohio State University, as well as, a Master of Science in Education and Counseling from Youngstown State University. Prior to his appointment with the Human Relations Commission, Mr. Bentley has worked professionally with The Ohio State University (Career and Employment Services), Youngstown State University (Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and the Office of Associate Degree and Tech Prep Programs), the Youngstown City School District, and the Cleveland Browns Football Organization (Football Operations).

In his spare time, Mr. Bentley enjoys mentoring the youth of Youngstown and surrounding areas. He has coached youth and high school basketball for nearly 10 years and assists college-bound students and their families with the application process, as well as, finding grants and scholarships.

Mr. Bentley looks forward to continuing his service to city of Youngstown and surrounding community.

Darlene L. M. Hightower, Secretary

(1982 to present)

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Darlene L. M. Hightower served the Human Relations Commission from 1982 to present. She began her employment with the City of Youngstown in 1978 and worked in the offices of Finance Department (Computer Room), Community Development Agency (CDA) (Housing Rehabilitation), Health Department (Nursing Division/Vital Statistics), Youngstown Police Department (Emergency Desk) and the Affirmative Action Office (the office name changed to Fair Employment Practice Commission (FEPC), then to COMPLIANCE, and is currently named Human Relations Commission (HRC)). Ms. Hightower also served as secretary for the Youngstown Charter Review Committee 2004-2005.

Commission Members

Julius Oliver, Chairperson

(Term ending 12/10/17)

Julius Oliver is the founder and chief operating officer of Kingly Hand Wash and Wax, as well as, a six-year veteran of the United States Army. A graduate of Youngstown Chaney High School (1999), Mr. Oliver will focus on the commission’s small business initiatives, as well as youth programming.

Porfirio Esparra, Jr., Vice-Chairperson

(Term ending 12/8/2017)

Mr. Esparra is the Director of Employee Relations with Humility of Mary Health Partners St. Elizabeth Health Center. Mr. Esparra is a trained Facilitator, having certifications in Effective Communications, Equal Employment Opportunity and Quality Improvement. Mr. Esparra attended Youngstown State University where he received a dual degree in Social Work & Spanish. When Mr. Esparra is not working he belongs to numerous civic community organizations. Currently Mr. Esparra sits on the Board of Turning Point Counseling, Ohio Society of Health Care Human Resources Administrators, Mollie Kessler Community School YSU Partners for work Place Diversity, Villa Maria Residential Services, Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center Advisory Board, and a active member of St. Rose of Lima Parish. Mr. Esparra is a resident of Youngstown and enjoys spending time with family, playing guitar and congas, listening and dancing to Salsa music, fishing hunting and gardening.

Hannah N. Ferguson, Member

(Term ending 6/3/19)

Hannah Ferguson is a native of Youngstown, OH. Graduated from Chaney High School in 2000, received her Bachelors of Science from Kent State University in 2004 then later graduated from Keller Graduate School of Management with her MBA in 2011. Currently working as an Academic Advisor at Eastern Gateway Community College, she is also an entrepreneur, a member with two nonprofit organizations, and volunteers at the Central YMCA with the Youth department.

Lynn Hart Bilal, Member

(Term ending 6/3/19)

Lynn Hart Bilal is a native of Youngstown, Ohio where she received her Masters in Education-Counseling and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Youngstown State University. Since 1990, Lynn has dedicated her services to the anti-violence movement in various capacities. In addition to spending 25 years providing direct service to victims of sexual assault, she has worked as a Standardized Patient, a Social Worker for a domestic violence shelter, a Caseworker for abused and neglected children, a Job Coach for adults with disabilities, a Counselor for a driver intervention program, a part-time Instructor at Youngstown State University, and, most recently, a Community Organizer.

Her vast experiences and lessons learned from years of outreach, collaboration with local agencies, and advocacy with survivors has inspired her powerful mission to assist in ending sexual violence.

In her free time, Lynn enjoys traveling with her husband Kelan, spending time at home relaxing with their American Staffordshire Terrier, and exercising at the YMCA, where she is also a member of the Advisory Board.

Jacob Harver, Member

(Term ending 5/3/19)

Jacob Harver is a lifelong resident of Youngstown. He attended Ursuline High School and in 2005 graduated Magna Cum Laude from Youngstown State University, majoring in History with a minor in Africana Studies. Mr. Harver is involved in multiple projects and organizations. His focus is on economic, political, and cultural development, environmental justice, and the arts.

Contact Information

City of Youngstown
Human Relations Commission
Ohio One Building
25 E. Boardman Street, Suite 527
Youngstown, OH 44503
Office Phone: 330.259.9063
FAX: 330.259.9064
Name Title/Phone/E-mail
Jonathan Bentley Executive Director, Human Relations Commission
Ohio One Building
25 E. Boardman Street, Suite 527
Youngstown, OH 44503
Darlene L.M. Hightower Secretary, Human Relations Commission
Ohio One Building
25 E. Boardman Street, Suite 527
Youngstown, OH 44503