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Johnson 'disappointed' by comments of rights chief

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: June 18, 2014 - 2:04 PM

Council president Barb Johnson said Wednesday she is "very disappointed" at statements made by Velma Korbel which have come to light since the civil rights chief's reappointment this March.

During a meeting of the city's executive committee, a special panel made up of several council members and the mayor, Johnson says she looks forward to the reviewing the findings of a management consultant who is examining practices of the civil rights department.

The city's interim city coordinator, Jay Stroebel, said consultant Barbara Brunzell began work earlier this month and will likely issue a report by the end of June. The report will include interviews with current employees, though those interviews are optional.

"We’ve received additional very clear information since the appointment process," Johnson said, apparently alluding to the release of a June 2013 speech Korbel gave to employees. "And I’m very disappointed at some of the statements that were made, to our employees, and apologize on behalf of the city to our employees who felt that their careers were threatened, both within the city and in general if they left the city."

Johnson said she hopes that employees feel free to participate with the consultant "in a very full way so that we can move on."

She also inquired with city attorney Susan Segal about whether discipline could be imposed in the future. Segal said the charter grants authority to suspend a department head, subject to the approval of the executive committee.

Council Member Cam Gordon, who pushed the motion that spurred the management consulting, asked whether former employees would be interviewed as part of the process.

“I think that might give some perspective about where we’ve come, what was going on," Gordon said. "Because a lot of what we heard about was past things, and maybe we then can clearly note some significant improvements or not."

Segal said that interviewing past employees appears to fall outside the scope of the council's initial directive, which she said was to survey the current conditions of the department. Segal observed that comments of past employees could be provided to the consultant, adding that some of them have already been publicized in the media.

See Johnson's comments below:

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