Mayor Jacob Frey said he plans to nominate Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel for reappointment, calling her a “tough leader” who deserves to stay on the job despite complaints about her leadership.
Frey had planned to include Korbel in his first round of nominations a month ago but pulled her name for further review after the Star Tribune reported problems with a city hotline designed to crack down on hate crimes. An ex-employee said Korbel terminated her in November after she raised concerns that the hotline was poorly planned and misled callers from outside the city whose complaints were not investigated.
Frey spent the past month looking into allegations against Korbel and believes her full record is worthy of her continuing as the leader of the department, he said in an interview Wednesday.
“Are there allegations? Absolutely,” Frey said. “Does she have a tough style? Yes. But I have to look at the whole body of work.”
When Korbel took the position in 2010 under then-Mayor R.T. Rybak, she succeeded a director who’d publicly lost the faith of city leaders, leaving behind a backlog of complaints.
Frey acknowledged that Korbel’s tenure has generated controversy as well but touted her record of achievements over the past eight years. He cited her efficiency clearing out the backlog of civil rights complaints and overseeing enforcement of the city’s new minimum wage and safe and sick time ordinances.
“Apart from the allegations made, her body of work is strong,” said Frey. “It includes some very clear results.”
Many of the allegations against Korbel over the years have come from ex-employees who say she’s ignored the very labor ordinances her office is charged with enforcing, such as working mandatory overtime without pay.
In interviews with the Star Tribune, Korbel has denied these allegations, saying the employees in question were “barely working,” let alone putting in extra hours.
In 2014, after ex-employees went public about problems in the department, Frey, then a City Council member, was among those who voted against Korbel being reappointed.
“I voted against her on the first time for reasons I felt, and continue to feel, were warranted,” he said Wednesday.
The council reappointed Korbel that year but directed the city coordinator to assign her a management mentor. Frey said he believes Korbel’s leadership has improved over the past four years as a result. He voted in favor of Korbel’s reappointment in 2016.
The nomination will next go before the city’s executive committee, which includes Frey, Council President Lisa Bender and three other council members, next Tuesday. If passed by a majority vote, it will move to the full City Council.