Indeed, White failed to respond to City Pages' request for the number of complaints his office has received in the last four years, and the number it has sustained. In addition, commission administrators say they don't know how many cases the panel has heard or how many complaints have been resolved. During the same period, department expenses have ballooned from $1.27 million to $1.67 million (more than $125,000 of which has gone toward travel expenses for department employees to various conferences). The apparent decline in efficiency, says Edwards, has led some in city hall to question whether Minneapolis should continue to fund a department that seems to be accomplishing less with more taxpayer money.
Eighth Ward city council member Brian Herron, a longtime advocate for civil-rights protections, disagrees with McDonald's assertion that the department's role duplicates that of other agencies. But, he says, eliminating the department's funding is a perennial topic of discussion in city budget negotiations. "It's talked about all the time. There's a feeling out there that the civil rights department is one we can cut. Whether there's the political will to do it, though, I don't know."