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Davenport City Council holds off on proposal to replace the Civil Rights Commission

DAVENPORT, Iowa-- Tensions inside Davenport City Hall overflowed during Wednesday night’s board meeting on August 8, between council members and members of the public about the future of the Civil Rights Commission.

Davenport Aldermen introduced the first reading of a proposal to replace the city’s independent Civil Rights Commission with a new Agency called the Human and Civil Rights Agency.

Director of Davenport Civil Rights Commission accuses Mayor of inappropriate conduct

The new agency would include a include a governing board with three members from city council. Those against the change argue it would strip the Civil Rights Commission of its independence from the city.

“When you have a governing board, that means you got your thumb on top of the people that are running the civil rights commission,” says Karene Nagel.

Nagel was one of about a half dozen protesters outside City Hall before the meeting.

“No one has explained why they think a change is necessary there is absolutely no explanation at all,” says protester Dennis Platt.

When we asked aldermen the reason behind the proposal they didn’t give an answer.

We were later referred to the City of Davenport’s agenda with an attached document which reads:

The general purpose of the ordinance change is twofold: 1) improve administrative oversight of the personnel, operations and budget of the agency while increasing accountability to the community; and 2) facilitate the restructuring of the commission for potential regional collaboration.

Some members of council disagreed with the proposal.

“I don’t support this. I hope my colleagues will agree with me and vote this down,” says Alderman Mike Matson.

The board agreed to table the proposal, giving the council time to address its issues with the Davenport Civil Rights Commission.

Karl Rhomberg, from the Riverfront Improvement Commission, formally known as the Levee Improvement Commission, says he see the council's move as a continuing power struggle between elected officials and appointed members of oversight agencies.

He remembers fighting with the city last year when it tried to merge the independent Riverfront Improvement Commission with the Parks and Recreation Advisory board.

“I think it’s a power grab by the city administration to consolidate power in themselves and to turn out citizen input," says Rhomberg.

The council will decide its next steps with the Davenport Civil Rights Commission in four weeks.