The Complaint Department

Fifty years ago Minneapolis launched a program to stamp out discrimination. Now many of the dream's supporters doubt the city's civil-rights agencies are equal to the task.

Last month Kenneth White made headlines when undercover narcotics officers pulled him over as he was driving home from a south Minneapolis park with his granddaughter. After asking White to step out of his 1998 BMW 740 sedan, the officers peppered him with questions. Why had he left the park abruptly? they wanted to know. And, they asked him over and over, who owned the car he was driving? White identified himself. He was the executive director of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, he told the officers, and he had the business cards to prove it. Eventually White was sent on his way, with no apologies.

The incident made the front page of the Star Tribune two days later. A deeper irony, however, went entirely unexplored in the news coverage. The incident occurred at a time when White's department, and its adjunct agency, the 21-member Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights, are under siege. The programs, an outgrowth of a city initiative launched in 1947 by Hubert H. Humphrey Jr., were designed to ensure that no one who works or lives in Minneapolis has to confront discrimination. If individuals believed they had been denied housing because of a disability or treated unfairly at work because of their race, the city could investigate.

The program was never intended to solve everything: The most flagrant discrimination charges end up in courtrooms. Others find their way into the large-scale government bureaucracies that have been created to handle them, such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and its state counterparts. The agency was supposed to deal with the people whose cases fell through the cracks.

Mark Berens

In the last two years, all of the investigators who probe cases for the department have left and been replaced. Several members of the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights have also quit, complaining that White's staff won't give them many basic facts they need to do their jobs. Judges have taken the apparatus to task, charging that some commission actions "add up to a disregard of basic principles of due process, objectivity and fairness." City council member Lisa McDonald has also been asking for information about the programs, saying she wants to take a hard look at the department's $1.9 million budget. And for the first time, some of the Minneapolis residents who have donated their time to the cause are publicly questioning whether the effort is worthwhile.

 

Robert Bailey would seem to be the kind of person the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights was designed to help. Bailey lodged a complaint with the department in 1995, after having been fired the previous year from his job at the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP). Though Bailey's bosses told him his termination was due to poor work performance during his ten months on the job, he alleged that NRP executive director Bob Miller and another supervisor had mistreated him because he is black. (Miller declines to comment for this story.)

It took the department more than four years to render a decision on Bailey's complaint. Bailey declined to comment for this story, but a court file that was later opened in connection with his case contains numerous letters to White asking for updates. In April 1997, two years after his case was opened, Bailey inquired about the status of the matter and was told that the staff member overseeing it had been "reassigned," according to the correspondence. That fall, in frustration, he wrote a letter to Kenneth White. "I came to the office to review my file and discovered numerous documents missing," Bailey wrote. "I have repeatedly inquired as to if anyone has located these missing documents; to date I have not been given a definitive answer. How can my case be properly adjudicated/investigated if my documents are missing?"

Later letters show that Bailey's case had been sent to the City Attorney's Office in May 1997. All cases in which investigators believe discrimination was involved--or, in civil rights parlance, where "probable cause" is found--are sent to the city's legal staff for review. Shortly after that, Bailey wrote, he got a call from a "mystery lady" who refused to identify herself but seemed familiar with the details of his complaint. She told him the department was "stonewalling" and that the city was in a quandary: The city attorneys, who drafted the NRP's initial defense against Bailey's claims, were now reviewing the civil rights department's findings, the letter continued. Because the file had made it to the attorneys' offices, presumably at least one of those findings was not in the NRP's favor.

Two years went by, with no explanation for what the lawyers might have been doing with his file, and no action. In a July 1999 letter to White, Bailey complained that he'd provided investigators with the names of numerous witnesses, but none of them had been contacted. "I have spoken to many people who were able to provide information to substantiate my claim against NRP and they have not been interviewed," he fumed. "I am very concerned that my case has been placed on the back burner and has not been thoroughly investigated."

Weeks later, the department finally issued its decision: Bailey was the victim of retaliation, but there was no evidence that racial discrimination was involved.

The case, however, was far from being resolved. Typically, when the civil rights department finds probable cause in a case, it attempts to mediate a settlement. If that fails, the agency refers the matter to the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights--a separate entity that works in tandem with the department--for a hearing. The case is then heard by a panel of three of the commission's 21 volunteer members, one of whom must be an attorney. Decisions made by the commissioners are legally binding. Like judges, the panel can order the payment of monetary damages. And as with a district court, its decisions can be appealed to the state's appellate court.

In Bailey's case, though, the NRP had already asked Hennepin County District Court to dismiss the matter. NRP attorneys pointed to a 1996 Minnesota Supreme Court decision regarding a case that had been decided by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, White's state counterparts. According to state law, if a case hasn't been resolved within 31 months, it must be dismissed. The NRP's lawyers argued that the same law should apply in Bailey's case.

Last month Hennepin County District Court Judge David Duffy ruled against the NRP. The 31-month cutoff, he asserted, applied only to the state anti-discrimination agency; Minneapolis's civil-rights ordinance, he noted, does not cap the length of investigations. But Duffy did pause to marvel at the department's penchant for protracted investigation. "It took the department four years to make a probable cause determination," he wrote in his decision. "Mr. Bailey was employed with [the NRP] for less than one year."

Bailey's attorney, David Sullivan, says the delay is likely to cause problems for his client. For one thing, Sullivan says, Bailey is having a hard time tracking down witnesses. Just as daunting, he adds, is the fact that "everything is not as fresh in everyone's minds. One thing I think we have heard to some degree from the NRP and Mr. Miller is that he doesn't remember these things.

"And with this time frame," Sullivan concludes, "'I don't remember' seems like a pretty legitimate response."

 

Ask Kenneth White about Robert Bailey and he shakes his head. "I see so many cases, it's very difficult for me to talk about a single case," he says. Criticism doesn't seem to faze White. In conversation, he comes off as highly self-assured and often sounds terse. If he doesn't want to talk about something, he quickly brushes the subject aside.

But if the Bailey case took more than four years, White insists, it's an aberration. The department he took over in April 1994 from former executive director Emma Hixson was troubled, the 48-year-old executive director concedes, but he has reformed it. "It was in bad shape for various reasons, so the city council and the mayor felt that there was a need for a change in leadership," he says of his appointment to the $94,000-a-year post. (Early on, White had worked as an investigator in the department and for a Ramsey County nonprofit. Most recently he worked for 15 years in the University of Minnesota's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.) "A change in leadership brings a change in style," he goes on. "A change in style brings a change in personnel. I was concerned about the lack of commitment by some staff members to civil rights."

When White was brought in to replace Hixson, he says, the department was taking an average of 24 to 30 months to complete an investigation. According to department figures, today 96 percent of all cases are less than a year old. Last year White established a goal of resolving every case within 180 days. New cases are going more quickly, but overall that aim hasn't been met, a fact he attributes to inexperience: None of his investigators has been employed longer than two years.

During the ten years before White took over, the department fielded 300 complaints annually and resolved 281 cases per year. As of 1991 two percent of the department's cases were taking more than two years to close. By the following year, five percent of all cases were taking more than two years to close. In 1993 that figure topped 11 percent.

In 1995, after White's first full year on the job, 263 complaints were filed. Only 188 cases were closed, and more than 11 percent of those had taken more than two years to resolve. Two years later, in 1997, the department was receiving just as many complaints, but closing far fewer--a mere 62 cases. According to department figures, there are still two cases from 1998 unresolved, and one from 1997.

In 1999 only 75 complaints were lodged with the civil rights department. White says several factors may have played a role: The office was focusing on closing cases; much of the investigations staff was new; and the department's visibility in the community wasn't high enough.

White maintains that the situation is improving. Indeed, through early July this year 140 complaints had been filed. But beyond that, it's difficult to assess the department's performance. The last year the agency published an annual report was 1995. (White does, he says, plan to produce an annual report this year.) In order to keep up with the pace of civil-rights complaints, White is requiring his investigators to close six cases per month. But they're currently averaging only four cases a month, a shortfall also attributed to "substantial turnover."

The emphasis on speeding up the process, however, rankles some local civil-rights attorneys. In a memo to the mayor last year, White claimed his staff was finding probable cause in one-fourth of cases. City figures belie this: During the last three years, the department has found merit in just five percent of cases. Between 1991 and 1995, the probable-cause rate fluctuated from 10 to 16 percent.

"The question you have to ask is, Are you getting a fair outcome or are you getting a quick outcome?" says Steven Cooper, the former head of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Cooper acknowledges that it's a struggle for all civil-rights agencies: figuring out how to balance speed with thoroughness--nearly always on a shoestring budget. In recent years state investigators also have begun finding merit to fewer of the complaints they hear. Too often, Cooper says, caseworkers are forced to dismiss cases out of hand in order to deal with their workload.

White's deputy, Fenton Hyacinthe, reasons that the decline in probable-cause findings is partly due to the department's disposal of cases much earlier in the process. He explains that staff have been asked to first try to help parties reach an agreement before investigators spend months looking into a case. During the first quarter of this year, 20 percent of cases were mediated and settled before staffers began a full investigation.

Cooper, however, cautions that negotiating settlements won't fix the whole problem. The state used mediation when he was commissioner, he says, and in his experience, people with money and attorneys tended to fare best. That runs counter to the purpose of government anti-discrimination agencies, which were set up to help people who don't have those resources. Moreover, mediating more cases means civil-rights advocates may be compromising in cases that might otherwise set precedents that would have a broader impact on society as a whole. "Mediation has always been something that the agencies have tried," says Cooper. "But it's not a cure-all."

 

One night in the summer of 1998, Alan Hooker was at home watching TV. He was surfing through the city's public-access cable channels when an ad soliciting volunteers to serve on the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights caught his eye. Hooker, who is gay, didn't know anything about the city's anti-discrimination apparatus, much less the commission. But the idea intrigued him.

Hooker grew up in suburban Detroit, and he still remembers seeing National Guard tanks roll into town during the 1968 race riots. His parents brought him up to believe that community service was a duty, not a choice. These days he works for Accessible Space, a St. Paul-based nonprofit that provides housing and personal care services for people with disabilities. His job is to recruit workers and serve as the company's affirmative-action officer, making sure no one experiences discrimination. The civil-rights commission seemed like a good fit. "I've always felt that I should do something for the community, especially if it's involving race relations or GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender] relations," he says.

After interviews with a mayoral staffer and several city council members, Hooker was appointed to the commission. He'd had no training or orientation, but he figured he'd learn the ropes as he went.

It didn't take long for Hooker to become disillusioned. Most frustrating, he says, was a crippling lack of communication between the volunteers on the commission and White and his paid staff in the civil rights department. Commissioners were expected to act as judge and jury, yet they were constantly unable to get answers to very basic questions, and department administrators always seemed to be questioning their commitment. Worse, city and state officials were starting to accuse the commission of the same kind of disorganization that he felt plagued the department.

There were, for instance, thorny questions being raised about a case involving Edward A. Johnson, a Minneapolis man who claimed he'd been rejected as a blood donor back in 1989 because of his sexual orientation. The case seemed straightforward: Johnson had gone to the Plasma Alliance, a St. Paul blood bank, and was turned down after answering in the affirmative when an intake worker asked whether he'd had sex with another man since 1977. Four years later Johnson visited a different Plasma Alliance location, this one in Minneapolis, where his name popped up in the company's computer database flagged "homosexual." He had never told anyone at the donation center that he was gay, Johnson says, only that he'd had same-sex encounters. He was even more alarmed to learn that Plasma Alliance sold the information in its database to third parties.

Johnson filed a complaint in Minneapolis, and also with the state's civil rights agency. A year later the state dismissed Johnson's complaint, ruling that Plasma Alliance was acting in accordance with guidelines set down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which apply to all potential donors, regardless of
sexual orientation.

But Minneapolis investigators reached a different conclusion. In September 1995 Minneapolis investigator Eileen Kapaun found that while Plasma Alliance could "reject donors on the basis of high-risk behaviors as a matter of public safety..., it may not reject an entire group of people based on one person's stereotyped notions of who is or is not homosexual." Kapaun concluded that Plasma Alliance had decided Johnson was homosexual and rejected him before even asking whether he had had sex with men. During the course of her investigation, Kapaun had interviewed a St. Paul Plasma Alliance staffer who told her she was able to identify gay men by "tuning into the person, paying attention to mannerisms such as their walk (if feminine), their speech (if feminine), their hand gestures (if accentuated)." In June 1999 the commission awarded Johnson more than $50,000 in damages and fees.

The ruling didn't surprise Plasma Alliance's attorney, David Goldstein, but it angered him. The commission's order did not give any reasons for its decision, or even recount the facts of the case. In arguing for his clients, Goldstein had pointed out that the commission had no jurisdiction in the matter because the alleged conduct had occurred in St. Paul. Furthermore, he noted, by law the city isn't permitted to consider issues that already have been ruled on by the state. Most of all, Goldstein was incensed because he felt attorney David Edwards, the volunteer commissioner who presided over the hearing, was openly biased against his client. In a document filed with the commission, Goldstein asserted that Edwards "may personally disagree with the position taken by the United States Food and Drug Administration [that men who have had sex with other men can't donate blood] and [may] be unwilling to follow federal law as it applies to this matter."

In May the state appellate court sided with Plasma Alliance. Judge Robert Schumacher concluded that the commission had completely ignored relevant federal law. "The commission's failure to articulate adequate reasons for its decisions leads us to conclude that the finding of discrimination is arbitrary and capricious," he wrote in his opinion. In his own comment on the case, Judge G. Barry Anderson took the matter further, noting "the outrageous disregard" of Plasma Alliance's rights.

"It is difficult to fully catalog the deficiencies in the proceedings before the commission," Anderson wrote. "The commission took ten months to decide a summary-judgment motion without ever ruling on a key issue--do federal guidelines designed to protect public health preempt the jurisdiction of the commission?"

The appellate judges also criticized the monetary award in the case. "The commission's award...is not supported by any findings and was apparently arrived at by calculating the maximum number of donations respondent could make through the year 2011, despite respondent's own testimony that he never planned to donate plasma more than a few times per year," Anderson wrote.

"The actions of the commission, when examined in total, add up to a disregard of basic principles of due process, objectivity and fairness," he concluded. "Given the approach adopted by the commission in this case, an independent hearing examiner would have been advisable."

The judges were pointing to a glaring problem with the commission's basic structure. Fearing that commissioners were too involved with civil-rights advocacy to be objective, state courts had previously urged Minneapolis to consider using hearing examiners--independent, impartial persons with legal expertise.

As it stands, says Goldstein, cases are being tried in front of well-intentioned citizen volunteers. "In essence you're really trying these cases to a single commissioner most of the time," says Goldstein, referring to the fact that when a panel of commissioners hears a case, one of the three must be an attorney. "More often than not, I feel that [the two lay members of the panel] are merely rubber-stamping the result that a lawyer-commissioner tells them that they should obtain." (Still, the commission's decisions are rarely overturned. Of 520 commission findings between 1982 and 1995, only 8 were overturned by higher courts. Current statistics are unavailable.)

The use of volunteers, Goldstein adds, exacerbates delays in the process. Edward Johnson filed his claim in June 1994. The department upheld it 16 months later, then spent a year attempting to negotiate a settlement. In October 1996 the matter was passed on to the commission. Because of scheduling conflicts among the members of the hearing panel, it took two more years to rule on the case, and another six months to determine damages.

"The commission can be a very frustrating entity to practice before," Goldstein sums up. "Some of the commissioners are very well qualified and fair and professional, and then there are other commissioners who are not well equipped to be acting as a judge in an impartial proceeding. It's my impression that the Minneapolis commission is viewed in the legal community as the least professional of the various fair-employment agencies in the state."

Commission chair Anita Urvina Selin concedes that the rebuke from the court in the Plasma Alliance case stung, and it has prompted some soul-searching. "It affects all of us as commissioners--how much we need to pay attention to what we're doing," she says. "What do we know, what do we need to know, and how do we educate ourselves as commissioners so that we can avoid anything like this in the future? There are federal guidelines that we failed to pay attention to or to look at, so our issue now is: How do we avoid that in the future?"

 

As the state appeals court was throwing out the Johnson case, Alan Hooker was coming to the realization that he'd had enough. The time he'd put in during the previous four months felt like a waste. Meeting agendas were dominated by internal politics, and communications with the department had become downright hostile.

Tensions had hit a new low during the commission's January 2000 gathering. New officers are elected each year at this time, a formality that had never sparked controversy in years past. But this year the commission's vice chair, Brenda Reid, had expressed interest in running for the top post. Reid is Kenneth White's sister.

Two years earlier White had been publicly chastised by the mayor for employing family members. Now, before commissioners cast their votes for new officers, a subcommittee warned that it would be "inappropriate" for Reid to chair the body, "because of the appearance of either a conflict of interest or collusion between family." In the end, Anita Urvina Selin was the only nominee for chair. Hooker was chosen as vice chair.

White's deputy, Fenton Hyacinthe, was present at the meeting, and afterward he penned an angry letter to the commissioners, criticizing the way Reid's candidacy was handled and deeming the subcommittee's opinion "a total ambush." Petty politics, Hyacinthe charged, were overshadowing important issues such as "educating the public, working on speeding up the hearing process, and preparing annual reports to the director of civil rights, the mayor, and the city council, just to name a few."

Hyacinthe is the domestic partner of one of White's (and Reid's) sisters.

A member of White's support staff, Joanne Martinez, had been attending commission meetings to take notes. Another department staffer had been acting as a liaison for the two agencies. Following the election White instructed Martinez to stop going to commission meetings. The unexplained change perplexed the commissioners, Hooker says; Martinez was a valuable resource for them, as well as a symbol of the department's support for the commission's efforts. (Though the two entities are technically independent of one another--the department investigates civil-rights complaints, the commission decides their fate--the department controls the commission's funding and support staff.)

In late April Hooker sent Martinez an e-mail lamenting her reassignment, which many commissioners interpreted as hostile. "Unfortunately," he wrote, "trust is getting to be a tenuous word to use regarding the department." The e-mail found its way to White, who responded with a three-page memo explaining that Martinez's reassignment was a workload-related decision and denouncing Hooker's letter as a string of "inflammatory statements" aimed at being divisive. "[I] question your ability to be objective and serve as a commissioner," the executive director wrote.

Hooker quit in May. "In his memo, Mr. White states that his commitment to civil rights is genuine," he wrote in a resignation letter addressed to his fellow commissioners, White, and the mayor and city council. "Of that I do not doubt. I also believe that there are 21 men and women whose commitment is equally genuine. They work full-time jobs, care for their families and then devote whatever spare time they may have to serve the city as commissioners. They receive no fame, no ornate office, and no city pay other than a $35 fee per meeting...."

After announcing his decision, Hooker received an e-mail from the mayor. "I would hope that I have the opportunity to talk to you before accepting your resignation," Sayles Belton wrote, adding that someone from her office would contact him to set up an appointment. A month went by before he heard anything. A meeting was finally set for July 26, but the mayor's staff canceled at the last minute and has yet to reschedule. (Sayles Belton says that her ever-changing schedule prevented her from following through on the meeting.)

The day after Hooker resigned, another commissioner, attorney Steven Lieske, also stepped down. Lieske says he had recently joined a large law firm and figured he couldn't spare the time. But in his letter of resignation he wrote that he too was "saddened and angered by the politics and poor relations between the commission and the department."

Since Hooker and Lieske departed, another four commissioners have announced that they too will be leaving.

White maintains that there is no communication problem in his agency. "We have always indicated to the commission, 'If there's anything you need, let us know,'" he says. "I don't remember anything that the commission has needed that we have not provided."

On July l7, when the volunteers convened for their monthly meeting, hand-wringing was the order of the day. Members pondered whether the commission should continue to exist, and whether, at the very least, it should retain a consultant to study possible reforms. The idea of employing independent hearing examiners was also raised. Commissioner Apur Patel lamented the recent turnover. "In all this turmoil, we've lost a lot of people," he said. "I don't think we know where we're going with this body. We need to first cauterize the bleeding."

When Patel's fellow commissioner Lisa Albrecht suggested an all-day retreat, another colleague opined that the agency's members ought to consider calling for public input instead. In the end nothing was decided. Albrecht offered a motion that the commission "sponsor an event to help us reconfigure ourselves." The matter was directed to the commission's executive committee, which is to come up with a recommendation and present it at the commission's August 21 meeting.

Late in the July meeting, Albrecht turned to Larry Warren, a lawyer in the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office who keeps tabs on civil rights activities. Irritated, Albrecht asked Warren about a request the commission had gotten from his office in the wake of the Plasma Alliance case: The attorneys wanted to know how frequently the commission's rulings are overturned. She feared the request was "politically motivated," Albrecht complained.

Other commissioners had to point out that the statistics were public information, and that anybody was entitled to them, no questions asked.

 

City Council member Lisa McDonald had wanted those statistics. Her husband, an attorney, had shown her the appeals court's decision in the Plasma Alliance case. She had already been planning to ask some tough questions about the city's civil-rights apparatus this fall, as the city council discusses next year's budget (she is also known to be considering a mayoral run against Sayles Belton). She also sought out and met with Hooker after his resignation.

Earlier, McDonald had asked White's staff for basic information about housing-discrimination cases and was surprised she got no answers. "I'm basically told that 'our computer system can't tell you that,'" she gripes. "It makes me very concerned. All they can tell me is how many complaints they've handled. But they can't tell me how many complaints they've sustained." Without that data, says McDonald, it's impossible to know whether the bureaucracy is working hard on vital tasks, or merely duplicating work already being done by state and federal agencies.

For years critics have dogged the department with the duplication-of-services argument: Why should Minneapolis taxpayers fund a cumbersome bureaucracy that performs essentially the same function as existing state and federal agencies? The simple answer, according to people who work in other, similar agencies, is that none of the government offices is adequately funded or staffed. For example, White's office is under contract to investigate cases that its federal counterpart, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, can't get to.

"It's sort of similar to saying we don't need Minneapolis police officers because the federal government has the FBI and the state has the State Patrol," explains Steven Cooper, the former head of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. "Practically speaking, these agencies don't overlap each other, because they all have work-sharing agreements."

In fact, Cooper argues, it's doubly crucial that Minneapolis have its own discrimination police. "For a [diverse] city like Minneapolis, the real rubber meets the road on discrimination issues," he says. "You need more enforcement there, not less enforcement. The concept that these things can be well taken care of from far away is very naive. The state office is very small for the mission it carries." (The department is also responsible for making sure that a certain number of city contracts go to businesses owned by women and minorities. In recent years White's staff has taken over these "contract-compliance" duties from other city agencies, increasing the department's budget.)

In a June 13 memo to the mayor and the city council, White wrote that an "in-depth look at the Department's operations and report on any overlaps or duplications of service" would be available "within a few weeks." As this story went to press, the document hadn't been completed. White says it will be ready "in a few weeks."

McDonald isn't holding her breath. "I'll believe it when I see it," she says. Even if the numbers show that the agency's function is crucial, she says, she intends to question why it has undergone so little scrutiny in the past. (While many city agencies report to the city council, White answers to the council's five-member executive committee, which includes the mayor and council president Jackie Cherryhomes.) "They should have to report to everybody," argues McDonald. "It seems like this department gets treated like a sacred cow."

White isn't worried. He says the anticipated grilling is business as usual. "If individual council members have issues of concern, it's expected that the department head will respond to their concerns or questions," he says. "That's what happens at budget time."

"I've been doing this for 25 years," he adds. "I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to do my job."

Mayor Sayles Belton says she will support White if city budget debates turn to civil rights. "On an annual basis, we review Mr. White's work plan and his progress and performance," says the mayor. "Every indication that I have is that Mr. White is performing his duties satisfactorily." Nor does she buy the argument that Minneapolis is wasting its money funding discrimination investigations: "I don't believe that we ought to be sending these cases to the state, where they have to compete with even more cases."

Sayles Belton concedes that she and White have talked about the problems between his department and the commission. "There has been an age-old tension, periodically rearing its head," she acknowledges. "And I'd really like for it to end. One of the things that I talked to Mr. White about was the need to ensure that there are good relationships between the department and the commission."

Certainly, the mayor was quick to react last month when White was pulled over by Minneapolis police. The morning after the incident, she summoned Chief Robert Olson to her office and demanded an explanation. She and the chief later conceded that the incident had racial overtones, but denied it was an example of racial profiling. "At first blush, [White] wasn't wrong to perceive that he was pulled over because he was black," Olson told the Star Tribune. "I think this is an opportunity to really sit back and look at yourself and your operation and how you do things. Good things can spring from this."

A month later the memory still stings White. "I feel that race played a part in my being singled out, stopped, detained, and questioned about drug activity in that park," he says. "I was concerned that they focused on my automobile. I was concerned that after I identified myself as a city official they continued to treat me as a suspect. I don't feel that other department heads would have been treated in the same manner."

In the end, though, White got his apology. Case closed.

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