By Michael K. Browne, Assistant Director – Complaint Investigations
The last official meeting of the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights for 2011 was the first for six new Civil Rights Commissioners. After a greeting from the Mayor’s office and Velma J. Korbel, Director of the Civil Rights Department, the Minneapolis City Clerk, Casey Carl, requested the new (and one returning) commissioners to rise, raise their rights hands, and repeat the oath of office.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. conference room, the regular venue for the Commission’s meetings, was filled to standing room only as guests witnessed the official event with jocund expressions on their faces. As each standing Commissioner stated the words of the oath in unison, the reverent impact these actions were not without a historical staves.
In short time, the oaths were not only stated but signed. The seven became sworn legatees of the Minneapolis’ rich history of protecting civil rights.
During the December meeting, the Commission also honored two erstwhile members. Sonja Dunnwald Peterson, of the law firm Dunnwald & Peterson, P.A. was recognized for her opulent nine years of service as a Minneapolis Civil Rights Commissioner.
In that time, Ms. Peterson presided over numerous public hearings, and issued findings on civil rights cases which were affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Also recognized (but not present) was Scott Flaherty, of the law firm Briggs & Morgan. Mr. Flaherty served this past year as the Chair of the Commission on Civil Rights. Both lawyers indicated that their decision to leave the Commission was to focus their work in 2012 on defeating the proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.
The Acting Chair, Michelle Monteiro, closed the meeting with inspirational words about the Commission’s upcoming annual MLK essay contest in January 2012.