SPOKANE, Wash. (ABC) – Authorities in Spokane, Washington, are investigating whether a civil rights advocate misrepresented her race when applying for the city’s Office of Police Ombudsman Commission.
Rachel Dolezal, 37, serves as chairwoman of the commission, which provides independent civilian oversight of police misconduct complaints. She’s also the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, as well as an adjunct professor at Eastern Washington University in the Africana Studies program.
For years, Dolezal has identified herself publicly as African-American — but the city is investigating whether Dolezal misidentified her race on a city form when applying for a spot on the commission.
“We are committed to independent citizen oversight and take very seriously the concerns raised regarding the chair of the independent citizen police ombudsman commission,” Mayor David Condon and City Council President Ben Stuckart said in a statement issued Thursday. “We are gathering facts to determine if any city policies related to volunteer boards and commissions have been violated. That information will be reviewed by the City Council, which has oversight of city boards and commissions.”
Spokane’s NAACP chapter, mayor’s office and city council did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.
Montana residents Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal told ABC affiliate KXLY that they are Dolezal’s biological parents, and that they are both white. Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal are listed as Rachel Dolezal’s parents on her birth certificate, according to KXLY and The Washington Post published a document the Dolezals claimed was the birth certificate that listed them as Rachel Dolezal’s parents.
KXLY reporter Jeff Humphrey asked Dolezal about her lineage in an on-camera interview Wednesday, showing a photo that had circulated on social media earlier this year showing Dolezal and an African-American man who had been identified as her father.
“I was wondering if your dad really is an African-American man,” Humphrey said.
“That’s a very. … I don’t know what you’re implying,” Dolezal responded.
“Are you African-American?” Humphrey asked.
“I don’t understand the question of– I did tell you that yes, that’s my dad. And he was unable to come [for a meeting] in January,” Dolezal said.
Before answering any further questions Dolezal stormed away.
ABC News’ efforts to reach Dolezal this morning were unsuccessful.
Dolezal has said she has an extensive background in civil rights efforts. According to her biography on Eastern Washington University’s website, Dolezal received her master’s degree from Howard University and previously worked at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“I think we all need more awareness. I want to enhance my own awareness of things,” she said in a 2009 interview with the Coeur d’Alene Press. “I’m kind of on a mission to educate myself and being involved in educating others forces you to continue to educate yourself.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, is open to people of all races, and the organization’s chapters and branches feature people of various backgrounds in leadership positions.
As news reports regarding the city’s investigation began to emerge Thursday, Dolezal stripped most of the images from her Facebook page.
ABC News’ Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.