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More than a week after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fired the city's civil rights director, her supporters defended her integrity and questioned the termination.

Alberder Gillespie, who was fired Feb. 16 on grounds she was hampering efforts at police oversight, sat quietly in the audience of a City Council committee meeting Monday that served as a forum for supporters, including several prominent figures, to air their thoughts.

"The timing of the dismissal and seemingly immediate news coverage while Ms. Gillespie was on vacation raises serious questions," said Marquita Stephens, president and CEO of the Urban League Twin Cities.

Stephens noted, as did others who spoke, that on the day Gillespie was fired, some media, including the Star Tribune, swiftly obtained city documents that painted an unflattering picture of Gillespie as obstructing attempts to improve effectiveness and transparency in civilian oversight of police misconduct.

But the ouster of a senior Black official had another impact, said Thomas Berry, program director of the Black Civic Network. "It was like a gut punch to the community," Berry said. "This is the second time in a whole year calendar that we've had a dismissal of a Black appointed official, and the way that they were talked about in the papers is uncalled for." Berry was also referring to the widely reported ouster last year of Tyeastia Green, the city's previous director of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.

Cedric Alexander, Frey's former commissioner of community safety, submitted a statement praising Gillespie's "unmatched" integrity. "Losing someone of her caliber and dedication is a significant setback for accountability and the progress of police reform, given her lifelong history of advocating for civil rights," it read in part.

The occasion for the public comments was created by Council Member Robin Wonsley, who chairs the Administration & Enterprise Oversight Committee. A critic of Frey and his administration, Wonsley on Monday moved forward with what amounts to a request for information to "create a healthier culture within our workforce," a reference to a yearslong flashpoint of allegations by some of an unhealthy, even racist, culture inside City Hall.

As she has since her firing, Gillespie declined to comment. At one point, she clutched her chest in a gesture of gratitude to Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, who spoke to her directly, thanking her for her service and apologizing "for how things were rolled out."

Ellison said he was treading carefully, however, since he's not aware of all the facts.

"I am not qualified to know whether there was or was not cause to move on from Director Gillespie's leadership," Ellison said. "What I am, I think, qualified to say is that your integrity is unquestionable, and when people move on from the city, they should be allowed to do so with their dignity intact. It is my opinion that that was not allowed to happen."