Human Rights Commission
Human Rights statement in support of the plea for racial and social justice in the United States
We stand in solidarity with all people seeking social justice. Racism, systemic violence, and the dehumanizing forces of oppression, powerlessness, and white supremacy have eroded the very fabric of humanity which ideally binds our society together.
We are at a historic moment in the pursuit of justice, fairness and equity for all people and we must seize this moment and work even harder towards changes in all institutions. Being silent is not an option and we actively want to add our voices to this ongoing plea for change.
The Austin Human Rights Commission is built on enduring values that promotes human dignity and diversity, respect, the attainment of quality of life for all, empowerment, integrity, social justice advocacy, equity and inclusion.
Our hope and our work as a City of Austin Commission is to do everything in our power to elevate the concerns and voices of those who for so long have been silenced, oppressed and ignored.
As the Austin Human Rights Commission, we believe this statement supporting social justice aligns with our mission to cultivate a just and inclusive community where diversity is valued and human rights are respected.
The Human Rights Commission consists of nine members whose purpose is to act informally to eliminate unfair discriminatory practices that are contrary to the public policies of the State of Minnesota. A term on the Human Rights Commission is three years. Meets fourth Monday of each month at 5:30 pm and for special meetings as called.
The mission of the Human Rights Commission is to cultivate a just and inclusive community where diversity is valued and human rights are respected.
Who Are We
We are citizens of Austin who live within the city limits and are appointed by the Mayor to uphold the rights of every individual in our community, regardless of:
- Religious Affiliation
- Sexual Orientation
- Physical or Mental Ability
- Economic Status
The law states that people cannot be treated differently because of personal characteristics. The Human Rights Commission is available to respond to inquiries made by letter or in person. For more information call 507-437-9940 City Administration Building.
- 2.52 HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION.
Subd. 1. Establishment of Commission. There is hereby established within the city a Human Rights Commission.
Subd. 2. Purpose. It shall be the public policy of the Austin Human Rights Commission to secure for all citizens equal opportunity in all areas protected by the state’s human rights statute and all amendments and to work consistently to improve the human rights climate of the City of ‘ and to assist the State Department of Human Rights in implementing the Minnesota State Act against Discrimination.
Subd. 3. Composition. A Human Rights Commission is hereby established consisting of nine members.
Subd. 4. Officers. The Commission shall elect a Chair, Vice Chair and a Secretary from its members. The Commission may choose to elect two Co-Chairs in place of a Chair and Vice Chair. The Chair shall preside over all meetings of the Commission. The Vice Chair shall preside in the absence of the Chair and perform duties delegated by the Chair. The Secretary shall keep a record of all meetings and proceedings of the Commission. In the Secretary’s absence, or in the event of a temporary vacancy in the position, one will be appointed by the Chair.
Subd. 5. Meetings. The Commission shall meet in regular session at least once each quarter at a time and place selected by the vote of its members. The Chair or any two members of the Commission shall have the authority to call special meetings of the Commission. Written notice of special meetings shall be given to all members setting forth the purpose of the special meeting and no other matters shall be considered at the meeting without the unanimous consent of all members present. Five members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum to transact business. Each member of the Commission, including the Chair, Vice Chair and Secretary, shall have one vote on all Commission matters acted upon by the Commission.
Subd. 6. Rules and procedures. The Commission shall adopt rules to govern its meetings and procedures, which rules shall not be inconsistent with the provisions of this section or the City Code. These rules may be amended from time to time, but only upon notice to all members will the proposed amendments be considered at a specified meeting.
Subd. 7. Duties and responsibilities. In fulfillment of its purpose, the Commission’s duties and responsibilities shall be to:
Adopt by-laws and rules for the conduct of its affairs including the election, assumption of duties and definition of responsibilities of officers and committees;
Enlist the cooperation of other groups, governmental agencies, organizations and individuals in the community concerned with human rights;
Encourage and support functions and programs within the city to promote citizen awareness and provide citizen education of civil and human rights;
Promote and publicize the role and activities of the Commission;
Advise and make recommendations to the Mayor, the Council and other governmental agencies within the city on civil and human rights issues. Further, act in an advisory capacity with respect to planning or operation of any city department on issues of civil and human rights and to recommend the adoption of specific policies or actions as are needed to provide for full equal opportunity in the community; and
Develop, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, such programs of formal and informal education as will assist in the implementation of the State Human Rights Act, and to provide for the Commission’s assumption of leadership in recognizing and resolving potential problem areas in the community.
Subd. 8. Limitations. Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to limit the right of any person to file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, or to limit the right of any person controlled or affected to a hearing of the facts and issues in any court having jurisdiction of cases involving discriminatory practice. Furthermore, nothing in this section shall be construed to require that the city’s Human Rights Commission agree to sit in mediation on any dispute which might be the subject of no-fault grievance procedures, The Human Rights Commission here constituted for the city, accordingly, shall possess the right at its sole discretion, to refer any complaint brought to the city’s Human Rights Commission hereunder to the investigation of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
AUSTIN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Pursuant to Ordinance 512, adopted by the City Council of Austin on July 19, 2004 and updated on September 8, 2008 relating to and providing for the establishment, appointment, organization and responsibilities of Austin Human Rights Commission, the said Commission does hereby adopt the following bylaws and rules for the conduct of its affairs.
Article I. Policy
It shall be the public policy of the Austin Human Rights Commission to fulfill its responsibility as a partner with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to contribute in securing all citizens equal opportunities provided by Minnesota statutes and to work consistently to improve the human rights climate of Austin.
The Austin Human Rights Commission shall possess the right to refer any complaint brought to the Commission for investigation to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
Article II. Membership
The Commission shall consist of nine members who shall be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by a majority vote of the Council. A reasonable effort will be made to seek a cross section of representation of all citizens within the City of Austin. Members of the Commission shall be appointed for terms of three years so that the terms of no more than three members of the Commission shall expire in any single year. Any person appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of the term for which their predecessor was appointed shall be appointed only for the remainder of such term. Commission may serve consecutive terms. Commission members shall serve without compensation and may be removed from office for cause by the Mayor and Council.
Article III. Officers
The officers shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson (two co-chairpersons are permitted if agreed on by the Commission for that year), and a Secretary.
Officers shall be elected for a term of one year at the first meeting of each year. Action on this item may be deferred to a subsequent meeting.
The Chairperson shall preside at all meetings. The Vice-Chairperson shall preside in the absence of the Chairperson and perform duties delegated by the Chairperson. The Secretary shall keep minutes of all meetings. The City Liaison shall finalize and mail all correspondence determined necessary for its functions, including notice of meetings.
Article IV. Duties of the Commission
As defined under City Code 2.52 (Human Rights Commission), Subd. 7.
No member or officer of the Commission shall represent or act on behalf of the Commission without specific authorization of the Commission, with the exception of gathering information for Commission input and consideration.
Article V. Committees
The Commission may form and dissolve committees at its discretion to fulfill the responsibilities of the Commission.
Article VI. Meetings of the Commission
There shall typically be at least one (1) regular meeting per calendar month, unless the Commission conducts a different activity (including but not limited to training, conferences, special events, etc.) during the month or if such a meeting is deemed unnecessary at the discretion of the Chairperson.
The Chairperson or any two (2) members of the Commission shall have the authority to call special meetings of the Commission. Written notice of special meetings shall be given to all members setting forth the purpose of the special meeting and no other matters shall be considered at the meeting without the unanimous consent of all members present.
Five (5) members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum to conduct official business. Each member of the Commission, including the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and Secretary, shall each have one (1) vote on all Commission matters acted upon by the Commission. Simple majority of those present shall pass a motion.
All meetings are open to the public. Upon recommendation from legal counsel, the Commission may move into closed session upon an appropriate motion. The agenda and/or the minutes of the meeting must reflect the reason for closing the meeting to the public. The meeting shall only be closed in so long as the issues to be discussed conform to the State of Minnesota Open Meeting Law. All public participants or observers will be asked to provide signature and address at each meeting. Public participation and input in Commission discussion and the conduct of official business are at the discretion of the Chairperson and the Commission as circumstances dictate.
All meetings will be conducted according to the spirit of Robert’s Rules of Order – Latest Revision.
Article VII. Community Involvement
The Commission may, at their discretion, periodically invite community members and organizational representatives to share information or insights into the needs of the community at large in the areas of securing all citizens equal opportunities provided by Minnesota statutes. If the Commission and other community organizations want to take on a joint project, they may form sub-committees or task forces for this purpose. This input will help the Commission to determine goals or projects that may be undertaken.
Article VIII. Confidentiality
The Commission and all its members shall make every reasonable effort to protect the privacy of individuals according to the Minnesota Data Practices Act.
Article IX. Amendments to Bylaws
These Bylaws may be amended by a two-thirds (⅔) vote of the Commission at any regular or special meeting of the Commission, if notice of the proposed amendment was provided to Commission members.
Passed and adopted by the Human Rights Commission on this 22nd day of September, 2008 with the following vote: Yeas 7; No 0; Absent 2.
703 6th Avenue SW
|Sarah Hartman, Co-Chair
1003 10th Street NW
12/17/18 – 12/31/23
1900 8th Avenue NW
5/04/15 – 12/31/24
1103 W Oakland Avenue
4/19/21 – 12/31/24
|Joyce Poshusta – City Council Representative
500 4th Avenue NE
1/19/21 – 12-31-23
|Vickie Spyhalski, Co-Chair
111 6th Street NW
1/01/21 – 12/31/23
|Stephanie Holtorf, Secretary
311 4th Street SW
8/17/20 – 12/31/25
1925 3rd Avenue NW
1/03/23 – 12/31/23*
1907 W Oakland Avenue
09/05/23 – 12/31/24
|Varinh Van Vugt
907 8th Street NW
8/16/21 – 12/31/25
|Tricia Wiechmann – City Liaison
500 4th Ave NE
Austin, MN 55912
- denotes filling an unexpired term