Members of the St. Joseph City Council voted 4-1 to leave the St. Cloud Regional Human Rights Commission. Council member Renee Symanietz voted against the move to discontinue membership.
The commission was created to supervise the St. Cloud Regional Human Rights Office. The office opened in September 2010 and provides outreach, education and intake functions for St. Cloud-area residents.
St. Joseph was the only area city to enter a joint powers agreement with St. Cloud for the commission. It is funded by St. Cloud, St. Joseph and a Community Development Block Grant.
Symanietz, who served on the regional board, said the city had 17 inquires last year and one complaint. Other than St. Cloud, St. Joseph is the only area city that voted to join the commission.
“I think it was because of the cost,” Symanietz said of the decision to leave. “It just seemed like we weren’t using the human rights office locally.”
She also said it was hard to get volunteers from St. Joseph to support the commission. She also talked to other neighboring cities and they did not express interest in joining. Even with the city’s exit, anyone can still file complaints and make reports to the state human rights office in St. Paul.
“We did have some people use it,” she said. “I thought it could be a benefit for someone here. It was a viable committee to be on.”
St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz said the city pays about $5,000 annually for the commission membership. He said if the City of St. Cloud could garner support from other municipalities, the city could rejoin the commission.
“There’s been no details [as to whether or not] the service is successful, if it’s being used and how accountable it is to St. Joseph residents,” Schultz said. “It would take a lot at this point for us to rejoin. We need to see more.”
The St. Cloud Regional Human Rights Office, the only regional office for the Department of Human Rights, allows residents of St. Cloud and St. Joseph to report potential violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act locally versus filing reports through a St. Paul office.