Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson has inquired about the possibility of suspending Minneapolis Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel, in light of a speech Korbel gave last year to employees in her department.
As MPR News first reported this week, Korbel warned that employees who complained about their jobs risked losing them. She also noted she and her senior managers "know a lot of people in the metro," and could make it difficult for the employees to further their careers.
At a meeting Wednesday of the council's executive committee, Johnson spoke publicly about the controversy for the first time.
"I am very disappointed at some of the statements that were made to employees, and I apologize on behalf of the city to our employees," she said.
Johnson, who supported Korbel's reappointment, asked the city attorney about the committee's power to discipline department heads. She said she'll reserve final judgment until an outside consultant completes an investigation of the work environment in the Civil Rights Department.
While Korbel reports to Mayor Betsy Hodges, the council's executive committee has the power to suspend city department heads for up to five days without pay. The full council can extend suspensions further. The council can also fire department heads at the committee's recommendation.
Hodges, who chairs the committee, continues to stand behind Korbel.
"I have confidence that she can lead the department. The issues that were raised during the process are issues that we are managing moving forward," she said following today's meeting. "We'll wait to see what the management consultant says and go from there."
St. Paul-based Brunzell Consulting is conducting voluntary interviews with all 22 employees of the Civil Rights department. Its report is due at the end of this month. All city employees also recently filled out surveys on their job satisfaction. Those results will be released next month.