WHATEVER ONE MAY think of the record or purpose of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over its checkered past, there is little argument that this agency--as the chief enforcer of federal laws against employment discrimination-- needs a strong executive and manager if it is to accomplish anything resembling a constructive mission. But President Reagan's nominee for chairman, William M. Bell of Detroit, offers neither the experience nor the administrative credentials that should be minimal prerequisites for this important position.
It is not a matter of Mr. Bell's views on affirmative action or his attitudes about the status of minorities, but of troubling professional shortcomings that must be measured against the job of administering an agency with more than 3,300 employees, a budget of $140 million and a statutory role as the chief federal office of job discrimination policy. Mr. Bell's main career experience has been as president and sole employee of an employment recruitment firm he founded five years ago; the company has never been listed with Detroit telephone information or in any directories, and so far this year, according to Mr. Bell, has not placed a single employee. He has listed an annual income of $7,000.
Mr. Bell has said that his management experience comes from his civil rights and political activities, though officials of local NAACP and other minority organizations in Detroit say he and his company are almost unknown. His chief political experience seems to have been as a Republican opponent of Democratic Rep. John Conyers in the last election, in which Mr. Bell received less than 5 percent of the vote.
Even the most charitable view of this record has failed to impress the various civil rights groups that at first were reluctant to oppose Mr. Bell because he was one of a only a handful of blacks to be nominated by the White House. Now, representatives of many of these organizations, including the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, have reached the conclusion that the EEOC chairmanship as well as its effectiveness demand someone with a stronger background.
There may be a role elsewhere in the Reagan administration for Mr. Bell, but the responsibilities of EEOC chairman clearly call for someone else. President Reagan should pull back the nomination before it goes any further in the Senate for what could be an embarrassing process all around.