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Michigan Civil Rights Commission Sets Timeline and Process for Interviewing, Selecting and Appointing Next Director of Michigan Department of Civil Rights; Commission Approves 2020 Leadership and Welcomes Two New Commissioners

January 27, 2020

DETROIT, MI— During its first meeting of 2020, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission approved a timeline and process for interviewing, selecting and appointing a permanent Director for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR).

Special Advisor to the Commission Sylvia Elliott, working with MDCR Human Resources staff, identified 26 qualified candidates from a list of 147 total applicants. Commissioners received the resumes and applications of the qualified candidates on Jan. 19. They were asked to identify and forward to Elliott by Tuesday, Feb. 4 their top seven (7) choices from the list. The advisor will compile the list of recommendations and identify no more than seven (7) individuals for the Commission to interview.

By Feb. 7, 2020, Commissioners will be provided with the final select list of seven (7) applicants to be interviewed. Interviews will be held on Saturday, Feb. 29.

Applicants who were not selected for interviews will be notified in writing.

On Feb. 29, 2020, the Commission will hold a special meeting to interview as many as seven (7) finalists. The Commission will select the order of the interviews by a random drawing of names and finalists will not attend the interviews of other candidates.

At the end of the Feb 29 interview sessions, Commissioners will identify and approve two finalists to invite for second round interviews on or before the Commission’s regular meeting on March 23, 2020.

On March 23, following the interviews of the finalists, Commissioners will deliberate and select the next Director of MDCR.

Applications were accepted until Dec. 31, 2019. During the open application process, 147 applicants submitted information for consideration of appointment to the post. Human Resources determined 65 applicants met the qualifications for the position.

Elliott, the special advisor to the Commission, reviewed those 65 qualified candidates and referred 26 of them to the Commission on January 19. The referral also included an alphabetical list of all 147 applicants. Commissioners were provided an opportunity to review the application or credentials of any of the 147 candidates by requesting access from the special advisor.

In other business, 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 two new Commissioners.

Zenna Faraj Elhasan, a Democrat of Dearborn, is the lead attorney and general counsel for The Kresge Foundation. She is a member of the ACCESS Community Advisory Board, The Children’s Foundation of Michigan Board, and the State Bar of Michigan Access to Justice Policy Committee. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Mrs. Elhasan is appointed for a term commencing January 1, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2023. She succeeds Rasha Demashkieh whose term expires December 31, 2019.

Portia L. Roberson, a Democrat of Detroit, is the CEO of Focus: HOPE, a non-profit organization that works to combat poverty in the City of Detroit. She is the board secretary for the ACLU of Michigan, an active member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, and outgoing chair of the Detroit Police and Fire Pension Board. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from Wayne State University. Ms. Roberson is appointed for a term commencing January 1, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2023. She succeeds Alma Wheeler Smith whose term expires December 31, 2019.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to carry out constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Commission is charged with investigating alleged discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record and physical and mental disability.

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