May. 29, 2013

Last week, HIRE Minnesota learned of a troubling development at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. An audit conducted by the Office of the Legislative Auditor revealed a pattern of misconduct in MnDOT’s Office of Civil Rights. The report details systemic problems with MnDOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program.

In many ways, the report confirms what HIRE Minnesota and other engaged community members have long suspected: there are serious and longstanding problems throughout the MnDOT programs that are meant to bring opportunity to Minnesota’s communities of color.

While HIRE Minnesota has focused on improving MnDOT’s performance in diversifying its construction workforce rather than DBEs specifically, the report affirms the need for public monitoring of MnDOT and other agencies. We know that nothing gets better without light shining on what is not working.  The more transparent our public agencies can be, the better results they will produce for our communities.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor has made specific and detailed recommendations for improvements that point to a productive path forward for MnDOT. These need to be embraced and resourced at the highest levels of the agency to prove that MnDOT is committed to righting these wrongs.

HIRE Minnesota is grateful to the legislators who requested this audit and to the Office of the Legislative Auditor for what appears to be a thorough job in assessing MnDOT’s performance in the DBE program. As a result of the audit’s findings there is a new director at the Office of Civil Rights, which could open up opportunities for more progress within the agency. We look forward to working with him on making MnDOT more transparent and accountable to the community.

If you have questions about the report, feel free to contact HIRE Minnesota’s Avi Viswanathan at avi@metrostability.org.