The Council on Black Minnesotans is suing the state of Minnesota, alleging inadequate compliance with the state's affirmative action hiring requirements and retaliation against its executive director.
The suit filed in Ramsey County District Court on Monday alleges that recent state legislation affecting the council violates the U.S. and Minnesota constitutions, as well as the state's whistleblower act.
The suit asks for injunctive relief to stop enforcement of legislation approved this year that changed the council's name to the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage and that required its executive director, Edward McDonald, to reapply for his job.
The legislation singled out the council and McDonald "by stripping them of their historic authority and autonomy with respect to its core missions to monitor and report on the state's affirmative action activities and their work with the Department of Human Services to comment on the out-of-home placement of Black children," the suit said.
A legislative audit had shown that the state's four ethnic councils lacked clear goals and that they communicated poorly with constituents. The audit also found that some members rarely attended required meetings.
The suit alleges that lawmakers retaliated against McDonald and the council, because earlier this year they had prepared a draft lawsuit alleging that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) had not sufficiently fulfilled the state's affirmative action hiring requirements. The draft suit also alleged that the Minnesota Department of Administration did not sufficiently audit agencies' compliance with those requirements. The suit filed Monday reiterated those concerns.
In 2013, MnDOT contracted for $891 with African-American contractors, less than .00023 percent of the $400 million in contracts it entered that year, the suit said.