After failed vote, Michigan still looking for civil rights director

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Michigan's Department of Civil Rights remains without a leader after a Monday night vote for the only candidate in the running for its executive director position ended in a tie. A search committee will identify the next round of candidates.

The 4-4 vote means that Harvey Hollins, formerly an aide to Gov. Rick Snyder, will not serve as the department's next leader, at least not without further action of the Civil Rights Commission, which cast the vote.

Michigan's previous civil rights director, Agustin Arbulu, was removed from the position in August, in the face of claims that he made remarks objectifying women.

More:Commission ousts civil rights director after remarks about women

According to a statement from the civil rights department, commissioners Stacie Clayton, Ira Combs Jr., Laura Reyes-Kopack and Jeffrey Sakwa voted in Hollins' favor. Commissioners Zenna Elhasan, Regina Gasco-Bentley, Denise Yee Grim and Portia Roberson voted no.

Harvey Hollins

Hollins gave Snyder counsel on "urban affairs" during his work for the state. But according to media reports, commission members were concerned that Hollins carried with him the "baggage" of the Flint Water Crisis, making the civil rights directorship an odd fit in some commissioners' eyes. 

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Hollins was the only candidate left to consider, as Conrad Mallett Jr. — former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, recently appointed a deputy mayor of Detroit to oversee its response to the coronavirus — pulled out of the running.  

The commission took a second vote to establish a three-member search committee. All three commissioners on it, Elhasan, Grim and Roberson, had voted no on Hollins.

Clayton, the commission chair, said in a statement that "whoever is selected as executive director will be faced with challenges and opportunities unlike any we have seen in the department’s recent history. It is important to every member of the commission that we identify an individual who has the background, character and strength to lead the department through this period."

The search that ended in the tie had previously identified "65 qualified candidates," the commission's statement said. They will be considered again in the new search, and others will be allowed to apply, too.

The commission says the search committee will report on its progress at the board's July 27 meeting.