Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday ordered an independent audit of state government with an ultimate goal of boosting diversity in its workforce and its private contracting.
"I look forward to finding where those deficiencies are so we can make those improvements and have them in place so when I leave office in two and a half years, these changes are institutionalized in state government," Dayton said at a State Capitol news conference. He was surrounded by leaders of state NAACP chapters, who he said asked for the private audit.
Jeffry Martin, president of the NAACP St. Paul chapter, said the audit would be instrumental in "building a state workforce that is more reflective of the people it serves."
Dayton's ongoing effort to diversify state government comes amid new attention to persistent gaps in income and educational outcome among Minnesota's minority residents.
NAACP officials said they believed the audit would be the first of its kind in the country. A St. Paul law firm, Fondungallah & Kigham, is on tap to conduct the audit after responding to a request for proposal from the Dayton administration. A Dayton spokesman said details of the contract for the vendor, including the cost of the audit, would not be released until a contract is finalized.
The auditors will review the administration's application of state laws governing affirmative action, human rights and procurement. The audit aims to test whether these laws are being administered properly and to come up with recommendations to the administration for leveraging those laws to increase workforce participation by people of color and other members of protected classes as defined by those laws.
"It's really using the levers of state government, where we have responsibility for contracting decisions as well as within state government for hiring," Dayton said.
Noting that he has recently pressured Minnesota's business leaders to take concrete steps to diversify their workforces, Dayton said it falls on him to do the same in the public workforce.
Recent analyses of the state workforce found that nearly 9 in 10 management jobs are held by white employees. A report found state employees of color reporting higher resignation rates and lower promotion rates than their white counterparts.
Dayton held out the Minnesota Vikings stadium project as a model for diverse hiring practices. The state had set a goal in 2012 that 32 percent of workers on U.S. Bank Stadium be minorities, and last fall reported it had exceeded that goal by 5 percent.
Still, the governor said there are certain areas where he expects to find out that more progress needs to be made.
"In terms of employing men and women of color and employing their businesses in various Department of Transportation contracts and subcontracts, I think that's an area of still some serious deficiency," Dayton said.
Martin said the audit findings would be released publicly.