Four minority councils that are part of state government received strong criticism in a new legislative auditor’s report.
The legislative auditor’s report on the Councils on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, Black Minnesotans, Chicano/Latino People, and Indian Affairs said:
“Overall, we found little evidence that the four councils have been effective advisors or liaisons to state policy makers.”
The councils were created between 1963 and 1985, largely to advise state policy-makers and acting as liaisons, but those missions have not been well fulfilled, the report said.
And the report says the councils should be dramatically improved, restructured or eliminated.
Specifically, the report says:
- The four councils have not been adequately integrated into state policy-making.
- Statutes set forth various duties for the councils — most of which involve advising state policy-makers and acting as liaisons, but the councils’ overall purposes are unclear.
- Over the last few years, the councils have done a poor job setting specific objectives and identifying outcome measures to assess the impact of their activities.
- Although the councils share similar concerns and duties, there has been little substantive collaboration among them.
- The governor has not always appointed council members in a timely manner nor in accordance with state law, and members’ attendance at meetings has often been a problem.
- Communication between the councils and the organizations that work with their constituencies has been inadequate.
The groups received about $3 million in state funding last year.
The four options for change offered in the report, none of which was recommended over the others, were:
- Maintain the four councils but clarify their primary purposes; require them to adopt strategic plans, develop policies and procedures, and work more substantively with state agencies; and encourage them to become more involved in the appointments process and better communicate with the public.
- Restructure the councils by placing them under the Department of Human Rights and requiring them to adopt certain operational changes.
- Eliminate the councils and create a new state agency — an Office of Minority Affairs — in the executive branch to address minority concerns.
- Eliminate the councils and selectively require that state agencies establish advisory groups to focus on disparities between Minnesota’s White, non-Hispanic and minority populations.
Responses from the councils to the report varied.
According to the legislative auditor’s report, the Council on Black Minnesotans objected to the entire report, with the director noting that it “traps the reader in a litany of revisionist history and the promotion of stereotypical rhetoric about African heritage people and other ethnic groups.”
The Council on Chicano-Latino Affairs, though, said that the report “has very valuable recommendations” that can “improve the performance of CLAC” and “produce an impact on the disparities affecting the Latino community for the past several decades.”
The governor’s office (PDF) responded that “…we maintain that we have done our very best, often in very challenging situations, in complying with applicable law, to follow the frequently proscriptive requirements for each appointment, and to make them all on a timely basis.”
The original story incorrectly referred to the report as coming from the state auditor. It was released by the legislative auditor.