Velma Korbel, the head of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, is one step closer to reappointment after a City Council committee voted Monday to give her two more years on the job.
Mayor Jacob Frey had planned to include Korbel in his first round of nominations in February but pulled her name for further review after the Star Tribune reported problems with a city hotline designed to crack down on hate crimes, and after a former employee complained that Korbel had fired her for raising concerns about the hotline.
Frey said he looked into the matter and believes Korbel’s full record is worthy of her continuing as the leader of the department, which is responsible for handling civil rights complaints and overseeing enforcement of the city’s new minimum wage and safe and sick-time ordinances.
Some current employees wrote letters of support for Korbel, who has been director of civil rights for eight years. Former Council Member Don Samuels told the committee Monday that when Korbel took over the Civil Rights Department, it was troubled, but that she had helped transform it.
“There was gradual improvement in every level,” Samuels said. “She’s a rare and great gift for the city.”
Several more who opposed Korbel’s reappointment also spoke out, arguing that key divisions within her department — the Office of Police Conduct Review and the Complaint Investigations Division — are ineffective.
Todd Schuman, who lives in southwest Minneapolis, said the Office of Police Conduct Review is “an institution that since its inception has failed to provide real community oversight of the Minneapolis Police Department.”
After the hearing, the Public Health, Environment, Civil Rights, and Engagement Committee voted unanimously to send Korbel’s nomination to the full City Council later this month. Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Members Phillipe Cunningham, Cam Gordon and Jeremy Schroeder were present.
Cunningham said the entire system for police accountability is flawed and that any lack of accountability in the past can’t be laid at one person’s feet.
“I hear you all. What has happened with the police is not OK. It’s not OK,” said Cunningham. “That’s a piece of the work that I am committed to, and I believe that Velma Korbel is the right person to continue that work forward, and I look to the mayor to also hold her accountable as his appointee as well.”