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Minnesota's minority councils criticized by legislative auditor

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Four state councils set up to address minority concerns have been ineffective and should be fixed or dumped, according to Minnesota's legislative auditor.

The Pioneer Press reports that's the conclusion of Minnesota's legislative auditor, which reviewed four independent bodies created by the Legislature from 1963 to 1985 to advise the governor and Legislature and serve as liaisons to policymakers.

They include the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, the Council on Black Minnesotans, the Chicano/Latino Affairs Council and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. The four were allocated about $3 million last year and are expected to spend more in the next two years. The councils employ 16 workers.

The Associated Press reports that the audit, released Friday, cites a lack of clear purposes for the councils, poor attendance at meetings, and poor communications between the councils and other organizations that serve minority groups. The audit offers four options for change, ranging from strengthening them to eliminating them.The legislative auditor suggested the councils could be closed or absorbed into existing state agencies.

"We identified six overarching problems: isolation from state policy making, lack of clear statutory purposes, inadequate identification of specific objectives and outcome measures, little substantive collaboration among the councils, untimely appointments and lack of attendance at council meetings, and poor communication with constituent organizations," Jim Nobles, the legislative auditor said in the report.

The Star Tribune called the report "harsh," noting that the audit found that they councils have lacked clear goals or power.

The response from the councils varied. The council for Asian-Pacific Minnesotans acknowledged the need for some improvement. The executive director of the Chicano-Latino councils welcomed at least some of the recommendations. But the directors of the councils for black and American Indian Minnesotans objected to the report.

"It traps the reader in a litany of revisionist history and the promotion of stereotypical rhetoric about African heritage people and other ethnic groups," wrote Edward McDonald, director of the Council on Black Minnesotans, who urged that the report not be released and said adoption of any its recommendations would be a disgrace.

Annamarie Hill, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, wrote that the auditor's office had "chosen to ignore the unique nature of the Council and the crucial role it plays in fostering and developing the government to government relationship between the State of Minnesota and the tribal governments within the state."

The audit offers four options for change, ranging from strengthening them to eliminating them.

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