Two issues with an appointment to the Davenport Civil Rights Commission have spurred the panel to seek a more formal process for vetting qualifications and conflicts of interest for appointees to the city's boards, commissions and committees.
The power to appoint commissioners lies with Mayor Frank Klipsch. But last month, he was forced to rescind an appointment after concerns were voiced by Civil Rights Director Latrice Lacey over the person's fit.
Klipsch later appointed Erie Johnson to fill the remaining one-month term of Commissioner Tim Hart, who passed away in September, but the appointment once again raised concerns with Lacey.
With repeated issues surfacing, the commission voted Tuesday to recommend a more formal process to avoid potential conflicts in the future and stay in compliance with city code.
"We have another person who again there was no conflict check done, and this person is going to be our third African-American commissioner," Lacey said. "I don't know him personally, but it doesn't go in line with what the ordinance says."
Lacey said members of the community have raised questions about inclusion in appointments to boards, commissions and committees, which added to the need to perform more thorough checks. There is no policy about diversity on other commissions, but on the Civil Rights Commission, selection criteria is defined as "seven individuals broadly representative of the community and the various racial, religious, cultural and social groups within it."
The commission has been short two members since Hart's death and Nora Dvorak's decision to step away.
Historically, Lacey said it was practice for the mayor to run appointments by her to determine if the person was a "good fit." This was an innocuous way of determining if there was a conflict of interest or any other problems. Conflicts of interest can include whether a complaint has been filed against a person or their employer or if they have filed multiple complaints against someone else.
When Klipsch chose to appoint the first person, whose name was not released, Lacey informed Klipsch of multiple issues including having contracts with the city and other businesses that have contact with the commission.
"Obviously, I can't say if there's a complaint filed here or not, but I can say that person would not be a good fit," Lacey said. "The next day we get a notice that the person was being appointed to the commission."
Lacey said she approached City Attorney Tom Warner over the issue, prompting Klipsch to rescind the appointment. Three days later, Johnson applied and was confirmed at last week's council meeting without any input from the commission.
Lacey said she had provided two potential candidates to the mayor, but neither person received a response. One had connections to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer community and was also a religious minority. The other was a person with connections to both the Jewish and atheist communities.
While the commission did need a male appointee, Lacey said that Johnson's background and resume did not fit with the specifications outlined in the code because there was no appearance of community involvement in activities related to civil rights.
When Lacey told the commission that Klipsch said he wanted someone from the business community, Commissioner Judy Shawver said "That's not a representative sample."
In recommending the more thorough process, the commission is asking that Davenport put in more checks and balances like other cities in the state and region.
On top of having specific requirements for various boards and commissions, the city of Cedar Rapids requires council members, commissioners and board members to fill out a financial disclosure firm ahead of time, Communications Division Manager Maria Johnson said.
"There's no reason to stop us from doing that homework first," Shawver said.
Klipsch was not available for comment Tuesday night because he was returning from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. Johnson was not present at Tuesday's meeting and did not respond to a request for comment. For Johnson to continue on the commission, he would need to be reappointed as terms run for two years from Dec. 1 to Nov. 30.
When asked the name of the rescinded appointment, Nevada Lemke, Klipsch's assistant, said a reporter needed to fill out a records request to view the board application.