Minneapolis parts with its civil rights director

As the city of Minneapolis works to implement reforms to its policing, it has parted ways with its civil rights director.

A spokesperson for the city confirmed Friday that Alberder Gillespie “has concluded her service with the City of Minneapolis as of today.”

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the city operations officer, will now serve as the city’s interim civil rights director while officials “move expeditiously to fill this role,” according to the city’s statement.

“The Minneapolis Civil Rights Department is a critical part of City government tasked with protecting and advancing the civil and human rights of our community, including the work of the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR),” the city’s statement added. “OPCR is responsible for complying with several provisions of the settlement agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

“We take the mission of the Civil Rights Department very seriously and are committed to implementing the reforms required by the settlement agreement. We look forward to advancing all of the important work of the Civil Rights Department in service of Minneapolis.

City documents obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS show that Frey sent a message to Gillespie on Friday morning saying that Anderson Kelliher — Gillespie’s direct supervisor — had recommended Gillespie’s termination and Frey agreed, deeming it “discipline for your actions,” the formal termination notice to Gillespie states.

An email from Anderson Kelliher to Frey states that a staff member in the civil rights department expressed several concerns about the office and Gillespie, and Anderson Kelliher believed that Gillespie “poses an immediate threat to the City’s ability to fulfill its responsibilities as outlined under the MDHR Settlement Agreement.”

Anderson Kelliher’s message to Frey noted that she has “additional concerns,” but her recommendation for firing Gillespie was based mainly on issues in Gillespie’s department. Those issues noted in Anderson Kelliher’s message included failures in working with and providing data to those within the department for several months, including the attorney’s office and the city’s embedded attorney, and a large backlog in police review cases.

According to the email, the police conduct review office has nearly 300 cases open. Of those, more than 100 are over a year old, another 81 are past the 180-day period and only 18 of those 81 have even gotten through the intake stage.

The message from Anderson Kelliher notes that staff members raised concerns about a lack of information sharing, training and leadership under Gillespie.

Documents also note that Gillespie was formally reprimanded for some of the issues back in December but nothing appears to have improved.

“In summary, the dysfunction under Director Gillespie’s leadership is threatening the City’s ability to make progress on the accountability improvements that are necessary to comply with the settlement agreement and to make meaningful police reforms that the people of Minneapolis expect and deserve,” Anderson Kelliher’s email recommending Gillespie’s determination states.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey nominated Gillespie to the role back in March 2022 after she’d already been filling the position on an interim basis. She was formally approved for a four-year term that May. Prior to that, she led the city’s census operation and engagement efforts.

The development comes two weeks after the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights agreed on a nonprofit to oversee its compliance with court-ordered reforms.

A multi-year state investigation found that the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in a “pattern and practice of race discrimination.” The court-ordered reforms include additional requirements for supervisors and how they will have increased access to body-worn cameras, as well as a new focus on the well-being of officers. State officials say the Department of Justice provided input throughout the monitor selection process of the third-party oversight organization since federal officials also found civil rights violations during an investigation into the city and MPD.