Following a lengthy protest in City Hall on Wednesday night, Davenport aldermen widely approved a slate of mayoral appointees to join the city’s resident-led panel that reviews local civil rights complaints.
Commission appointments are often quiet affairs that receive little attention during city meetings. But with the civil rights commission — as well as others under Mayor Frank Klipsch’s tenure — critics have railed against the mayor for replacing commissioners whose decisions may not align with his own desires. They’ve also called it a veiled attempt to oust Civil Rights Director Latrice Lacey and retaliate against sitting commissioners who opposed a recent city code change that fell apart, claims the mayor denies.
Addressing those concerns, Klipsch said Wednesday that his decision to appoint new members was part of a longstanding goal “to get more and more people engaged in city government,” calling it “an opportunity to get new people and more people involved.” He also said the exiting commissioners “have done a fantastic job” and thanked them for their years of service.
Several community members upset about the change voiced their worries to aldermen ahead of the confirmation vote. They raised concerns over what they viewed as a lack of transparency from elected officials, potential conflicts of interest between the appointed commissioners’ professional careers and the commission, and a perception that the commission’s work would be stymied with the new members joining.
Lacey, the civil rights office director whose employment is overseen by the commission, was among those who took to the podium to condemn the confirmation, calling for “the mayor and clearly biased council members” to recuse themselves from making decisions about the matter. She also resurfaced a separate accusation that the mayor touched her “on the behind” in front of an audience during a meeting in City Hall, an incident the mayor has denied. And she threatened that the replacement of the commissioners could result in a lawsuit.
Still, aldermen displayed near-unanimous support for the mayor’s appointees. The only “no” vote came from Alderman Mike Matson, 1st Ward, who voted against appointing incoming Commissioner Lee Gaston, the head of the Quad-Cities Center for Active Seniors. The other commissioners confirmed Wednesday are Patricia Hardaway, a human resources executive with Palmer College of Chiropractic, and Randy Moore, the president and CEO of Iowa American Water Company. Moore writes a monthly guest column for the Quad-City Times.
The new members are replacing outgoing commissioners Susan Greenwalt, Clyde Mayfield and Helen Roberson, whose terms expired late last month. All three have said they were disappointed with the mayor’s decision, saying they wanted to remain on the commission longer.
In other news:
- Aldermen approved by resolution a $689,000 city contract with area construction company Hawkeye Paving for the next round of work on the riverfront area known as Main Street Landing. Hawkeye was also chosen to do the first wave of construction, a job that included laying the initial foundation and came with a $652,000 price tag. Money for the development is coming from bonds the city sold to pay for various capital improvement projects.
- Well-wishes were given to Davenport City Clerk Jackie Holecek, who is retiring from her role in city government after a career that spanned three decades. At the tail end of Wednesday’s meeting, Holceck expressed her gratitude for “an amazing career” that included “some of the best days” of her life. She also noted that she worked for seven mayors, more than 300 city council members and attended over 1400 city council meetings during her tenure.
- Wednesday’s meeting was the last for the city’s elected officials until next year. Council members are next scheduled to meet publicly on Jan. 2.