Davenport Civil Rights Commission’s makeup could be decided by a judge

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- At Thursday's special meeting of the Davenport Civil Rights Commission, there was at least one point of agreement.

"Fortunately, the legality of the four new commissioners has not been questioned," said Lee Gaston, who is one of three new members appointed to the seven-member panel by Mayor Frank Klipsch in December.

He was referring to commissioners Michael Liendo, Erie Johnson, Ruby Mateos and Linda Gilman, all appointed by Mayor Klipsch in April, and present on Friday, May 17.

With the four new members forming a quorum, Gaston said he would abstain from voting at the meeting.

"I’m willing to not participate so the commission can move forward. I believe if any of the former commissioners participate it taints any decision the commission takes," he said.

He said one of those commissioners who was also present at the meeting, Susan Greenwalt, should have recused herself as well.

"I don’t believe she’s legal. She believes she is," he said.

Greenwalt's term expired in December, but she and two others have refused to vacate their seats, citing technical and political reasons.

"It hasn't been done according to the law," she said of the Mayor's December appointments.

"[The mayor] had a city council meeting on December 12, and he presented three commissioners, and they voted, but it was two days after the time frame." She said the appointment should have been made within 10 days.

"The city council wanted to do a takeover. It is to be kept an independent agency," she said of the commission.

The board has moved to elect a new chair at a special meeting and training for new members set for May 31, but Greenwalt said she'll stay on as commissioner until a neutral party can settle the matter.

"I’ll still be a commissioner, just not the chair, until it’s settled in court," she said.

Gaston in a statement provided to the media said, "the circus atmosphere created by the obstruction and delaying tactics, quite likely discourages individuals from bringing their concerns to the commission which is to serve as a protector for all residents, but particularly the marginal and vulnerable."

Nicole Bribriesco-Ledger, one of the four commissioners replaced by Mayor Klipsch's April appointments, has filed a lawsuit against the mayor and the city's handling of the appointment, in Scott County Court.

A hearing has been set for May 24 for a motion to keep the four commissioners on until the court reaches a final decision.

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