DES MOINES (AP) — The future of the Des Moines agency that handles civil rights issues is unclear after losing two of its three employees.

The Des Moines Register reports city officials are considering closing the office and asking other departments or a state agency to handle the concerns.

Des Moines has been spending between $322,000 and $374,000 a year to run the office, which investigates complaints about discrimination that often involve either housing or employment.

Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders said the city still wants to protect its citizens’ rights, but officials are trying to decide whether to maintain a separate office for that purpose.

“Protection of our citizens’ rights is pretty high on the priority list. The question though is really how much resources to put into that versus other priorities,” he said.

The director of the Des Moines office left the job Friday, and its investigator resigned in March. Commission chairman Michael Bowser hopes the agency will be have the chance to start fresh with new staff after the departures.

“There has to be staff for the commission to accomplish anything,” Bowser said. “There are people (in Des Moines) who need to have their cases heard and the state’s not doing that for them.”

Even if the vacancies are filled, the Des Moines civil rights three-person office will still be smaller than similar ones in several other Iowa cities.

For instance, Davenport has four full-time employees and one part-timer, and that city has roughly half the population of Des Moines. It also has two temporary employees who are paid by a federal grant.

The Davenport office reported investigating 152 discrimination cases in 2014. That’s significantly more than the 31 cases a year the Des Moines office averaged between 2011 and 2014.


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