© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Civil rights leaders demand Kansas City Manager Brian Platt resign over ‘culture of racism’

A group of Black men and women stand in a group. A sign says "Racism + Sexism = Bad City Management."
Celisa Calacal
KCUR 89.3
A group of Civil Rights leaders stood outside City Council chambers Thursday to call on City Manager Brian Platt to resign.

Leaders point to the surveillance of Andrea Dorch, the former head of the civil rights department, and her subsequent resignation as evidence of a City Hall administration that "oppresses Black people."

A coalition of civil rights leaders and organizations in Kansas City are calling for City Manager Brian Platt to resign, and calling out Mayor Quinton Lucas for being complicit in creating what they say is a culture of racism inside City Hall.

“This hostility towards African Americans at City Hall is emblematic of the hostility and hatred that results in the broader culture,” said Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City. “Our civil rights organizations have had enough of duplicitous rhetoric, posturing, pontificating about Black issues while presiding over an administration that oppresses Black people and leaves Black businesses out in the cold.”

The call for Platt’s resignation comes about a month after Andrea Dorch, former head of the Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity Department and one of the highest-ranking Black women in City Hall, resigned from her position. She alleges she was pushed out after sounding the alarm about the sprawling Meta data center campus in the Northland not following the city’s rules around hiring minority- and woman-owned businesses. The city maintains that Platt asked Dorch to resign because she was violating the city’s residency requirement by residing outside city limits.

“(Platt) needs to leave the city if he does not understand what it is that we as a people are going through,” said Bishop James Tindall, president of the Urban Summit. “We have tried to make progress in this community. He is from New Jersey. I suggest that he goes back there.”

In a statement, a spokesperson with the mayor's office said Lucas has appointed a record number of Black people to leadership positions with the city, increased pay for city workers and overseen investment in the Black community.

The spokesperson said Mayor Lucas has already contacted the leaders present at Thursday's press conference to discuss their concerns.

"The mayor remains committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure Kansas City can be a national leader in increasing opportunities for all," the statement reads.

Neither Lucas nor Platt attended the City Council’s legislative meeting on Thursday. Platt did not respond to the statements made by civil rights leaders.

Howard condemned the city’s hiring of private investigators to surveil Dorch in January. An invoice shows the company billed Kansas City nearly $11,000 for these services, including 121.5 hours and 1,107.5 miles spent following Dorch.

“If the mayor was aware of this, if the city manager was aware of this, then their action or inaction related to these issues display their lack of commitment to socio-economic justice for African Americans here in Kansas City,” Howard said. “The mayor has been complicit with racism against Blacks in city government. He’s overseen a culture of racism against Black women at City Hall.”

City officials point to 2020 and 2023 mortgage documents that require Dorch to maintain her principal residence in a Lee’s Summit house as a condition of her loan as evidence she was violating the city’s residency policy. Dorch maintains that while she does own a home in Lee’s Summit, her primary residence is located in Kansas City, Missouri — and tax records confirm she’s owned a Kansas City home for more than two decades. She alleges the city used the residency requirement to retaliate against her after she raised concerns about the Meta project.

A report Dorch published prior to her resignation alleged that city officials waived requirements that Meta developers hire a certain percentage of minority- and woman-owned businesses. The report also alleges that city officials, particularly City Manager Platt, pressured her and her office to look the other way on the Meta project.

“In a city where Blacks lag so far behind in every category of economic wellness, the government's unwillingness to ensure a just share of economic wealth from a billion dollar project is unacceptable,” Howard said. “These decisions work against Black economic equity and inclusion.”

Howard also said city officials have neglected the recommendations made in a public report detailing issues of racism within the Kansas City Fire Department.

Howard and civil rights leaders made three demands to the City Council: reinstate Dorch in her position, implement the recommendations made in the report about the Kansas City Fire Department and amend the contract with Meta to include minority- and woman-owned business requirements.

Marvin Lyman, a local Black business owner, pointed out that Dorch’s departure from the city contradicts the mayor’s efforts around reparations in Kansas City.

“It's an insult to create a commission on studying reparations when we have the very administrator responsible for securing our participation discriminated against and forced to resign,” Lyman said.

“We cannot be serious about fairness, equality, diversity, inclusion, and equity when our practices are discriminatory, when our practices are racist and sexist at the very core.”

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.