New director could redirect department's focus to match that of Gov. Snyder
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights has been at odds with some of the policies of Gov. Rick Snyder, but that could change soon with the appointment of a new department director.
Current MDCR Director Daniel H. Krichbaum has announced plans to step down at the end of July. With Krichbaum at the helm, the department has continued to assert the policy positions it pursued under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Those decisions and actions have been brought into particularly clear focus over the past six months.
Under the State Constitution, governors exert indirect control over the Michigan Department of Civil Rights by appointing members of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. But they can only do so when vacancies arise, or terms expire. Although Gov. Snyder has been governor for more than two years, his appointees didn't gain a majority on the commission until this year.
However, the change on the commission didn't seem to affect the department. Twice since Gov. Snyder's appointees took control, the department's policy positions have either run counter to those of Gov. Snyder or been awkward for the Snyder administration. As a result, there now seems reason to question whether the commission is willing to force the department to adopt policies that reflect those of the Snyder administration. Its choice of a new director could provide the answer.
June 7 was the deadline for candidates to submit applications for the director's post. MDCR spokesperson Leslee Fritz said that the department has not released the number applications that were turned in.
However, Fritz said two commission meetings have been scheduled for this month, on July 22 and July 29.
It is believed the commission will probably pare down the list of director candidates on July 22 and would then be expected to choose a new director on July 29.
On Feb 8, MDCR filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education asking it to prohibit the use American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, logos, slogans, chants and/or other imagery in use at some Michigan schools. In the complaint, the civil rights department claimed there was evidence that the imagery negatively impacts student learning and creates an unequal learning environment in violation of Article VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
That complaint came as a surprise to the Snyder administration, according to sources close to the governor's office. Several Republican lawmakers spoke out against the civil rights department's position and called for the complaint to be withdrawn. But the department refused to do so.
Although the U.S. Department of Education dismissed the complaint, the department is still pursuing the issue.
Then in March, after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would take up the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative case, the department continued to advance the position that the court should rule that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is unconstitutional. The MCRI outlawed preferential treatment. It was Proposal 2 on Michigan's 2006 statewide ballot and voters passed it by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin.
The Civil Rights department continued to push that the MCRI be ruled unconstitutional despite the fact that promoting such a position is contrary to the stance Gov. Snyder has taken on the issue. As a candidate in 2010, Snyder pledged to stand by the will of the voters.