Updated at 12:18 with confirmation.
Sources at city hall say that the much-lauded director of the city's Office for Civil Rights, Julie Nelson, is getting canned by the incoming mayor. Mayor-elect Ed Murray is throwing a big press conference right now to announce new staff, and we'll soon learn who her replacement is.
Yes, new mayors always fire and hire people. But Nelson in particular has worked on many of the big social justice wins at city hall in the last few years—she and her office worked to ban discrimination against job seekers with criminal records; she's the co-chair of the city's task force on gender pay equity, convened after the city discovered in July that, on average, it was paying women less than men.
When I talked to her this summer regarding that pay gap, she said she'd worked for the city for 23 years. We've requested comment from Nelson and Murray, and we'll update this post when we hear more.
UPDATE AT 12:18 PM: Nelson confirms that Murray fired her in an e-mail to her staff. It's posted after the jump. Her replacement will be Patricia Lally, who is currently a civil rights lawyer in the US attorney’s office in Seattle and is a past president of the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington.
UPDATE AT 1:47 PM: Jeff Reading, Murray's brand-new communications director, offers the following:
Mayor-elect Murray definitely appreciates her public service and the change is no reflection on her fine work. The issue of civil rights has been central to the Mayor-elect’s career as an elected official and will continue to be central to him as Mayor, and he’s very excited to work with Patty Lally—who is another very respected voice on civil rights issues—in that regard.
Good morning everyone,
I want to let you know that the Mayor has decided not to retain me as director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights. As you might suspect, I am deeply disappointed: I have great passion and commitment to our unparalleled work for equity and civil rights. I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish during the time that I have been director.
But it is not about me, it really is about all of you. Our work on Race and Social Justice is making a huge difference in Seattle. We have built the capacity of City government to achieve racial equity, rather than perpetuate inequities. On a day-in, day-out basis, thousands of City employees are working to eliminate institutional racism. Our partnerships with the community and other institutions are helping to bring about structural changes. We have become a model for other cities and regions across the United States.
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights has been at the forefront of developing and implementing new policies to achieve equity, such as the Paid Sick and Safe Time and the Jobs Assistance Ordinances. Providing paid sick and safe time and limiting the use of criminal background checks in employment decisions have tremendous impact for the communities we serve. These are but a few examples of our working at the cutting edge of equity, civil rights and inclusion.
We are also leaders in protecting the community by enforcing civil rights laws. We investigate hundreds of charges every year with in a timely and professional manner, and we provide excellent customer service to everyone who walks through our doors and to everyone who needs information about civil rights laws. We do an equally excellent job working to prevent discrimination from occurring in the first place.
Working together with our Commissions has been an honor as well. During my time here, I have been honored to work with some of the best, brightest and most dynamic people in Seattle. Our work has been mutually supportive and re-enforcing; we have been able to accomplish more through our collaborations.
There is so much that we are working on that I am sad I won’t be a part of … Following up with the thousands of people who attended the Pacific Science Center’s RACE exhibit; launching of the Governing for Racial Equity Network; implementation of the Gender Equity in Pay Task Force recommendations; launching a Gender and Social Justice Initiative; making City bathroom facilities more accessible for LGBTQ, families and people with disabilities; addressing inequities affecting gay men in the City’s blood drives; development of a new three year plan for the Race and Social Justice Initiative; launching new training in 2014; conducting fair housing testing … I could go on!
I am so proud of what we have accomplished and I’m inspired when I picture the work that the Seattle Office for Civil Rights will continue to do in the future. You are an amazingly talented group of people, and you bring such creativity, passion and commitment to public service. Thank you for the opportunity to work together with you.
I love you, I will miss seeing you on a regular basis, but I know that our paths will continue to cross. Thank you all.
Julie Nelson, Director
Seattle Office for Civil Rights