First, to add some context, by all accounts our Civil Rights Department was in disarray and dysfunctional until the appointment of the current Director, Velma Korbel. There is little doubt that Velma came in, cleaned up the department, and got it running again. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.
However, at Velma’s reappointment hearing, quite a few allegations were raised by both former employees who worked under her, and the union which represents current employees in the Civil Rights Department. These allegations range from violating employment laws and collective bargaining agreements, to threats, retaliation, favoritism, and an overall toxic work environment.
I take such allegations extremely seriously.
Mayor Hodges sent City employees an email after stories broke on the investigation into former Regulatory Services director Rocco Forte, stating the following:
“The newspaper and radio stories tell a very disturbing tale of bullying, retribution and retaliation”
“we are 100% committed to providing a respectful, positive work environment”
“City leaders are to be held to the very highest standards of conduct. That is not only my expectation, but my requirement for all department heads and leaders. You are entitled to no less.”
I couldn’t agree more with Mayor Hodges. It is simply unacceptable for City leadership to perpetrate a toxic workplace environment; and after many hours of looking into these claims and listening to all sides involved, I have no doubt that such an environment exists in our Civil Rights Department.
I do not feel that I can, in good faith, vote in favor of reappointing Velma Korbel. I feel that doing so would be unfair to City employees, put our taxpayers at risk, and ultimately hold our City back from the results of exceptional leadership.
Unfortunately I was on the losing side of this vote. My colleagues who supported Velma did so for a multitude of reasons. In part, the Mayor promising an investigation into misconduct and her plans to bring in outside consultants to resolve workplace issues helped to sway some of them.
One issue I take particular offense with is the claim that allegations of misconduct are simply a product of employees being unhappy with change. Our City is full of incredibly talented professionals who work hard every day to make Minneapolis a better place, and to suggest that they don’t know the difference between disagreeing with management decisions and hostility/retaliation, is wholeheartedly insulting and unacceptable.
I genuinely hope that these issues will be resolved under the leadership of Mayor Hodges and that the Civil Rights Department will be a place for bright minds and passionate souls to find inspiration and support in working to progress the values of equity and fairness that are shared by residents across our city.
Voting against reappointment: A. Johnson, J. Frey, B. Yang
Voting for reappointment: B. Johnson, L. Goodman, K. Reich, A. Warsame, L. Bender, L. Palmisano, A. Cano, E. Glidden, C. Gordon