The saga of uncertainty surrounding the Davenport Civil Rights Commission entered a new chapter on Tuesday after commissioners discovered that four recently appointed members may not be enough to take official actions alone.
The commission is a seven-member group that oversees the city’s civil rights office. Four members were kicked off the commission and replaced by Mayor Frank Klipsch in April because they refused to comply with directives from the city’s elected officials to allow three other appointees to participate, an action currently being reviewed in Scott County District Court.
Until Tuesday, the four newest members thought they could take actions outlined on their meeting agenda without the participation of other members, whose status remains in dispute, because they constituted a quorum. Among the items they were considering was the repeal of a resolution enacted by the commission that has so far stalled three other members appointed by the mayor from joining the group.
After the four voted to rescind the resolution, Civil Rights Director Latrice Lacey told them they’d need five members to take such action, referencing guidelines from the Iowa attorney general’s office concerning public bodies and quorums.
“I’m getting a little frustrated at this point because I really thought we were gonna start moving forward and be able to answer questions for the public and then do things,” Commissioner Erie Johnson said during the meeting. “But not being able to move forward, this is frustrating to me.”
City code makes no reference to what constitutes a quorum of the civil rights commission. Under state law, civil rights commissions established by municipalities have a default of two-thirds of members to establish a quorum. At the close of the meeting, Lacey told attending members she would review applicable laws and supply them with more information when the commission meets again next month.
In February, the Davenport Civil Rights Commission — made up of seven different members — passed a resolution saying the city made errors when three new commissioners were appointed. That resolution was central in the mayor’s reasoning for removing four previous commissioners.
Meanwhile during the meeting, which was attended by several activists, a man who brought a complaint to the commission grew upset with the appearance that the public body was not working to resolve his concerns. The man says he was called a racial slur by a Davenport store clerk years ago, and he wants that person to be held accountable.
For months, parties on both sides of the civil rights commission issue have pointed to the questions over the commission’s membership as a distraction that should be resolved quickly. Both sides have also agreed to comply with any decision made in a court of law.