The U.S. Civil Rights Commission has complained to President Reagan that it has been frustrated by his administration in efforts to obtain data from federal agencies on the enforcement of civil rights laws, and is considering issuing subpoenas for the information.
Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., chairman of the six-member panel, said in a letter last week to Reagan that administration officials had impeded commission attempts to obtain information on efforts by federal agencies to enforce civil rights laws, including the amounts of money spent and numbers of employes devoted to those efforts.
John Hope III, acting staff director of the commission, said yesterday that the data was needed to monitor the "performance" of federal agencies in carrying out civil rights laws. He said the commission was "not itching for a confrontation" with the president, but would issue subpoenas for data should it not be forthcoming. Yesterday, however, White House assistant press secretary Anson Franklin said, "We will give them whatever in- formation they need to fulfill their responsibilities."
Hope said the commission has set an April 25 hearing for the information to be produced, and would issue subpoenas to federal agencies later if it is not. This would be an unprecedented step, since the commission in the past has issued subpoenas only to call witnesses to hearings, he said.
Hope added that commission requests for data have been blocked by the departments of Education, Labor and Justice, and that other agencies had also been reluctant to provide it.
Hope said the commission had also been frustrated in its attempts to compile data on the race, sex and ethnic origin of top-level appointees in the Reagan administration. He said this data had routinely been provided by presidents Ford and Carter, but the Reagan White House has not been forthcoming. Attempting to get the data from individual departments has "delayed us many, many months," he said.
Last year, the commission attacked the administration for what it described as a declining 1983 budget commitment to civil rights enforcement. The White House criticized the commission report and said Reagan had actually increased spending for civil rights enforcement activities.
Pendleton was appointed by Reagan, along with one other commission member. Three others were appointed by Carter, and one by Ford.