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Council removes Mueller from HRC

The Austin City Council on Tuesday voted 6-1 in favor of a request by the Austin Human Rights Commission to remove Commissioner Dan Mueller from the group.

The request came after the HRC voted 8-1 to expel Mueller during its June 28 meeting. In a letter to the council from Tricia Weichmann, who serves as the city’s liaison on the commission, Mueller’s “recent involvement with several different groups whose mission doesn’t align with that of the Human Rights Commission’s values and mission” was cited as the reason.

“The Austin Human Rights Commission is built on enduring values that promote human dignity and diversity, respect, the attainment of quality of life for all, empowerment, integrity, social justice advocacy, equity, and inclusion (…),” HRC co-chair Sarah Hartman said during the June 28 meeting.

“The City of Austin and the HRC leadership team have received numerous concerns from community members regarding Commissioner Dan Mueller. Commissioner Mueller is publicly aligned with at least three groups with a mission that opposes universal human rights. While Commissioner Mueller is free to associate with groups of his choosing, it is the conclusion of the Human Rights Commission leadership team that Commissioner Mueller’s actions undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the Austin Human Rights Commission.”

According to HRC co-chair Jennifer Braaten, the three groups identified were the Minnesota Family Council, Minnesotans4Freedom, and the Minnesota Child Protection League.

The vote for removal came after Mueller, who has served on the HRC since 2017, declined to resign.

In a statement to the Herald, Mueller stated his opposition to the HRC’s decision as well as the claims from those outside the HRC.

“I have served on the Human Rights Commission and throughout the community since moving back to the area without incident or issue until recently, with no change in my actions, commitment to the community, or attitudes to others,” he said. “The claim is that through attending events as a guest of my wife (State Rep. Patricia Mueller (R-27B)) that include the Minnesota Family Council, Minnesota Child Protection League, and MN4Freedom that I am somehow now espousing their values and not for the human rights of all people. This is the furthest from the truth. For over half of my life, I have worked directly with people from every country, background, elderly, youth, the homeless, those with disabilities and refugees and immigrants, and nearly every organization in Austin. My commitment has been to create and celebrate community, as could be seen in the parade on the Fourth of July, to have civil conversations on difficult subjects, and to seek solutions that represent the best for the community. I work daily with individuals to empower them to grow, to find opportunities, and to prosper.”

Mueller said that he has been called “racist” and “not a true Christian,” accusations he says are “baseless and do not represent me, my views or my service within the community.”

During the council’s discussion, council members said they received calls and emails from citizens both for and against Mueller’s removal. Because the vote was not part of a public hearing, members of the public, including Mueller, were not allowed to address the council.

Those council members that voted in favor of removing Mueller cited concerns that Mueller was not the right fit for the group. They also said they believed the HRC was capable of making decisions in its best interest and that members should be expected to follow certain guidelines.

Councilman Jason Baskin (Second Ward), who previously chaired the HRC, cast the sole dissenting vote, saying he believed it would set a bad precedent and open the door to allowing city committees to remove members who express a viewpoint that is in the minority.

This was the first time the council has been asked to remove an appointed member of any city committee. Mueller’s removal does not bar him from serving on any other city committees.

Mueller said that while he opposes the decision, he still aims to continue to work with members of the community.

“I will continue to work tirelessly to empower individuals, families and all people in Austin to grow together,” he said.