St. Paul officials have developed a $4.7 million budget for the city's newest department.

The Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity will be up and running in 2009, although several ordinance changes still need to happen and a director has yet to be named.

The process of hiring a director will move forward this week. The City Council is expected to confirm a 13-member search committee today, and a public meeting is expected to solicit criteria Thursday.

The idea is to include the public in the selection, similar to hiring a police or fire chief.

A request for proposals has been issued for a search firm to find a good pool of candidates.

The city's goal is to have a director -- who would serve a three-year term -- in place by January. The new director's salary, which will need council approval, will probably range from $88,000 to $121,000, according to the city's Human Resources office.

The new department will merge four city offices or departments and will pull together services from civil rights enforcement to contract monitoring to workforce development.

Its purpose is to improve the way St. Paul does business with women- and minority-owned firms.

A recent audit found that less than 7 percent of $220 million worth of contracts in 2006 went to minority- and female-owned businesses. Lack of accountability, lack of communication and lack of resources were the main problems, according to the audit.

Council member Melvin Carter III will lead the search committee. Other members are: A.L. Brown, Tene Davis, Nathaniel Khaliq, Susan Kimberly, Ramon Leon, Nneka Morgan, Ravi Norman, Sharon Romano, Vic Rosenthal, Carol Rydell, the Rev. James Thomas and Bao Vang.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542