After a contentious reappointment process, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted Friday to keep Velma Korbel in the city’s top civil rights position.
Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins said the council has heard “significant concern” over Korbel’s leadership, including petitions opposing her appointment, but called on critics to set differences aside.
“I want to ask those who are deeply concerned about the success of the civil rights department that they continue to work with the council and with Ms. Korbel to help make that department be the best that it can be,” Jenkins said.
Korbel has held the position since 2010. Earlier this year, Mayor Jacob Frey temporarily pulled back her appointment for reconsideration after a Star Tribune report about problems with a city hotline designed to crack down on hate crimes. Community members have also publicly criticized Korbel’s record, including a lack of aggressiveness in holding police accountable for misconduct.
In a letter to the council and Frey, Korbel listed as accomplishments her leadership over a new police-civilian oversight system in Minneapolis, the elimination of a complaint backlog and creation of the city’s Urban Scholars internship program. Korbel ended the letter by criticizing city leaders for allowing the appointment process to be “hijacked by entities with an ax to grind.”
“Your attempt to provide transparency to the public is almost immediately an advertisement to any leader of quality to run quickly in the opposite direction,” she said. “However, if your objective is to dissuade good people from these jobs, then what you have is just fine.”
At the council meeting Friday, Frey acknowledged community concerns but said he believes Korbel has been an effective leader when looking at her work in full.
Council President Lisa Bender also praised Korbel, citing the office’s expanding duties in protecting worker rights in Minneapolis.
“I am thankful for the director’s leadership and all of her staff who have really stepped up over the past number of years,” said Bender.