2 join Civil Rights Commission, timeline set to replace Arbulu

    Michigan Civil Rights Department Director of Legal Affairs Sylvia Elliott | Ken Coleman

    The Michigan Civil Rights Commission on Monday approved new leadership and swore in two new commissioners. 

    The panel also approved a timeline and process for selecting a permanent director for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR). The commission fired Director Agustin Arbulu in August amid sexual harassment allegations.

    In November, Mary Engelman, acting Michigan Department of Civil Rights director (MDCR), was appointed as interim director. Sylvia Elliott, director of the department’s office of legal affairs, was appointed as a special adviser to the commission.

    Civil Rights Commission votes to fire Arbulu

    During its first meeting of 2020, commissioners unanimously approved Stacie Clayton to serve as chair for 2020. Laura Reyes Kopack was selected as vice chair and Jeff Sakwa was approved as secretary. 

    In addition, the commission swore in Zenna Faraj Elhasan, a Democrat from Dearborn, and Portia Roberson, a Detroit Democrat, to the commission. Elhasan succeeds Rasha Demashkieh and Roberson succeeds former state Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith, whose terms expired Dec. 31.

    Elliott and the MDCR Human Resources staff, identified 26 qualified candidates from a list of 147 total applicants for director. 

    Civil rights panel names leadership team after Arbulu firing, declares education ‘a civil right’

    Commissioners will identify their top seven candidates by Tuesday, Feb. 4. The commission will hold a special meeting to interview up to seven finalists on Feb. 29.

    At the end of the interview sessions, commissioners will identify and approve two finalists to invite for second round interviews for the commission’s regular meeting on March 23, where a new director will be chosen.

    Allison Donahue
    Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.