Facing public pressure and criticism, city leaders have abandoned a contentious proposal to take some authority away from Davenport’s civil rights commission.
In a written statement, Mayor Frank Klipsch said Friday that “there are important matters for (elected officials) to consider without this item creating conflict.”
“With this matter behind us, I look forward to strengthening relationships and improving communication with those selected to govern the Civil Rights Commission,” the mayor wrote. “Their work has been and always will be vital to the long-term success of Davenport.”
Under the proposed ordinance, management and budget decisions would have been handled by a three-member panel of aldermen instead of the commission. The proposal also outlined a path for the city to hire contractors to help to perform some of the tasks currently done in-house by employees on the city payroll.
Commissioners are appointed by the mayor, confirmed by city council, and serve two-year terms. They oversee the city's civil rights office, which investigates and processes local complaints of city, state and federal law violations.
In response to the mayor's announcement, Susan Greenwalt, the commission’s chairperson, wrote in a statement that commissioners are hopeful the action “is a step towards reconciliation and building relationships of mutual trust between the council, the community and the Commission.”
Introduced in late July, the proposed ordinance drew swift condemnation from the commission and the employees under its supervision. Impassioned pleas to the reject the ordinance were offered by residents, commissioners, civil rights office employees and community leaders when the issue reached City Hall last month.
Supporters of the changes said the alternative concept carried several advantages, including more freedom for commissioners to review complaints and a greater level of accountability for civil rights office staff.
Meanwhile, opponents labeled the move as a power grab, saying the changes would hinder the commission’s ability to help area residents. They also alleged a governing board consisting of aldermen could be influenced by special interests to ignore civil rights complaints.
Last month, aldermen voted 8-2 to suspend hearings on the proposed rule-change. Several said the matter should be discussed privately with commissioners before it moved forward.
The ordinance was scheduled to return to City Hall for additional debate until the mayor’s announcement.