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Kansas City tells Meta developer to hire more minority firms after they allegedly skirted city rules

Rendering of the Meta Kansas City data center at Golden Plains Technology Park.
Rendering of the Meta Kansas City data center at Golden Plains Technology Park.

The Kansas City Council on Thursday voted to change its contract with the developer to enforce city rules requiring them to contract with minority- and woman-owned businesses as it builds its massive Northland data campus.

The Kansas City Council approved changes to its contract with Meta, the parent company of Facebook, that will require the developer to follow city rules on hiring minority- and woman-owned contractors as it builds its massive data campus in the Northland.

The council approved the changes 11-1. The action comes more than a month after a report from the former head of the city’s Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity Department alleged city officials allowed Meta to forgo the minority- and woman-owned business requirements, despite concerns raised by the Civil Rights office. The report also alleges that top city officials pressured Andrea Dorch, former head of the Civil Rights office, to look the other way when she raised concerns about the Meta project.

The report said only 5.5% of contracted businesses were minority-owned — far fewer than what the city requires.

Under the contract changes, Meta will now have to comply with city rules that say 14.7% of businesses have to be minority-owned and 14.4% woman-owned. The developer also has to provide monthly reports to the Civil Rights Office showing their use of minority- and woman-owned businesses.

1st District-at-Large Councilman Kevin O’Neill was one of the sponsors of the ordinance. He said it’s been hard to determine who allowed Meta’s contract to go through City Council without attaching any of those requirements.

“Going forward, this $4 billion project will include everything it should have included from the very beginning,” O’Neill said.

5th District Councilman Lee Barnes voted for the ordinance with a “reluctant aye.” He said he plans to talk to the developers about creating a community benefits agreement around the project.

The City Council approved a massive incentive package for the data center, worth $8.2 billion over 37 years, through a Chapter 100 industrial development plan. This allows Meta to pay no property taxes on the development for 25 years.

In April, Andrea Dorch, who was one of the highest ranking Black women at City Hall and led the Civil Rights office since 2021, resigned from her position “under protest.”

She says she felt pushed out because she sounded the alarm about the Meta project not complying with city rules. The city says Dorch was asked to resign because she was violating the city’s residency rule that requires all city employees to live in Kansas City.

Dorch maintains she never violated that rule. An invoice provided to KCUR by a city official shows the city hired a private investigator to follow Dorch for two weeks in January, as part of the investigation into Dorch’s residency. The company then billed the city $10,992 for its work.

News of Dorch’s resignation caused anger and concern among local Civil Rights groups and construction and trade organizations that work closely with the Civil Rights office. Earlier this month, several Civil Rights leaders called out City Manager Brian Platt and Mayor Quinton Lucas for overseeing a “culture of racism” at City Hall.

Leaders called for Platt to resign and for Dorch to be reinstated to her position. They also wanted the City Council to amend Meta’s contract to ensure they include minority- and woman-owned businesses.

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.
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