City sued for making race a qualification for commissioners

By Bob Unruh

The city of Asheville, N.C., has found itself on defense, in a federal courtroom, for requiring that members of a city commission be of certain races.

Officials with the Pacific Legal Foundation have filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Asheville on behalf of John P. Miall and several others against the city, its manager and its mayor.

The issue is over the procedures used to accept applicants to be on the city’s Human Relations Commission.

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The problem is if an applicant isn’t the right race, he or she isn’t even considered.

And the complaint charges that violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The commission was created by the city in 2018, and its purpose is to “promote and improve human relations and achieve equity among all citizens in the city by carrying out the city’s human relations program.”

Then it turned racist, with a scheme demanding that six of the members are required to be “African-Americans,” and another two “Latinx.”

Further, moving beyond racism into demand for individuals who have made specific alternative lifestyle choices, it requires that two commission members be “of the LGBTQ+ community,” two be between ages 18-25, at least two living public housing, a least two with a disability and more.

“The opportunity to serve your local community should not depend on your race,” said Andrew Quinio, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “Asheville’s candidates for public service should be treated as individuals, instead of mere members of arbitrary racial groups. Asheville needs to stop making assumptions about people’s experiences and qualifications based on arbitrary and offensive racial classifications.”

The foundation explained: “One candidate, John Miall, is a lifelong resident of Asheville and spent nearly 30 years working for the city of Asheville, including as its director of risk management for several of those years. He secured many historic firsts for the city’s health and benefits plans, and although John is now retired, his passion for public service has never diminished. He felt his decades of municipal experience and continued service to his community would be a natural fit for the HRCA. Nevertheless, when he applied for one of the vacant seats, Asheville passed on his application because of his race and readvertised the open positions.”

The action seeks a court declaration that the racial requirements for appointments is unconstitutional and to permanently halt the city from following those practices.

It also requests class action status for all those rejected because they are the wrong race.

“Under the HRCA’s membership criteria, the city council will not endeavor to appoint white residents unless they also satisfy a separate category, such as being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a youth member, disabled, living in public housing, or recognized as a community leader,” the complaint charges.

 

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