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Kansas City and Brian Platt sued for discrimination by ousted civil rights director

A head-and shoulders photo of a woman is layered among tear sheets of documents that indicate "Surveillance Services: POI Dorch, Andrea."
Photo Illustration - Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3

Andrea Dorch alleges in a recent lawsuit that Platt interfered in her job duties as head of the Civil Rights office in Kansas City. The lawsuit comes as the city is beginning to renegotiate Platt's contract as city manager.

Andrea Dorch, former head of Kansas City’s civil rights department, is suing City Manager Brian Platt and the city for race and age-based discrimination.

Dorch’s lawsuit was filed nearly a year after she alleges she was forced to resign from her position as head of the Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity Department because she warned city officials that a multi-million dollar Northland data center campus being built by Facebook’s parent company was reportedly skirting city rules.

The lawsuit comes as the city council and Mayor Quinton Lucas are beginning to renegotiate Platt’s city manager contract, which is up for renewal at the end of this year.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office issued the following statement on behalf of the city:

"Per standard practice, the City will not comment on pending lawsuits. On the merits of the Meta project itself—one of the largest infrastructure projects in recent Kansas City history—more than $186 million in construction and other support work has already been committed to registered minority- and women-owned businesses, and growing.

"Kansas City government continues its work with Meta to ensure the more than $1 billion project meets all goals set by the City Council throughout all phases of construction. We expect Meta’s contract utilization plan to be finalized with the City this spring.

"We are proud of our City staff and all efforts to ensure equitable inclusion both inside of City Hall and in the workforce on all public projects."

The lawsuit states that beginning in 2022, Platt created obstacles that made it difficult for Dorch to carry out her job duties as head of the civil rights office. Toward the end of 2022, the lawsuit alleges that Platt singled Dorch out in a meeting of department directors and then barred her from attending city council meetings. It’s normal for department heads to attend city council meetings to give testimony on relevant ordinances.

KCUR reported last spring on Dorch’s departure from the civil rights office. In an interview with KCUR following her resignation, and a report she had published prior to her leaving city hall, Dorch alleged that city officials, including Platt, interfered with her job duties, particularly when she voiced concern that the Northland development was not hiring the proper number of city-mandated minority and women-owned contractors.

Dorch’s lawsuit states that Mayor Quinton Lucas and councilmember Eric Bunch “publicly derided and denigrated” her for challenging Meta’s failure to include minority and women-owned businesses in the project, which violated the city’s own rules.

When Dorch continued asking questions about the Meta project, and advocating that the developer comply with the city’s rules, the lawsuit says Platt sent “an official letter of reprimand” via email, called her communication “unprofessional” and prohibited her from discussing any of those issues with the mayor or city council. Those duties made up the foundation of Dorch’s job, the lawsuit states.

In May 2023, the city council approved changes to its contract with Meta that require the developer to follow city requirements to hire minority and women-owned businesses.

City officials maintain that Dorch, then the highest-ranking Black woman in city hall, was asked to resign because she violated a rule requiring city hall employees to live in Kansas City. They cite a Lee’s Summit home that Dorch purchased as evidence she broke the residency requirement.

But in Dorch’s lawsuit and in previous interviews with KCUR, she maintains her primary residence has always been in Kansas City. Jackson County property records show Dorch owns homes in both Kansas City and Lee’s Summit. A car registered in Dorch’s name lists the same Kansas City address.

The lawsuit says firing her over the residency requirement was “pretextual.”

Dorch’s lawsuit cites KCUR’s reporting from last spring that revealed the city hired private investigators to follow her, and that the surveillance began soon after Dorch received the letter of reprimand from Platt.

Dorch first learned of the surveillance from KCUR and The Kansas City Star, and “up to this point, was still worried that she was being followed and/or surveilled,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Dorch “was in fear for her safety and the safety of her children as Mr. Platt never informed Plaintiff that he hired a private investigator to follow and surveil her.”

Dorch’s departure from City Hall angered Civil Rights leaders in Kansas City, many of whom called on Platt to resign and accused Platt and Mayor Lucas of overseeing a “culture of racism” at City Hall.

Dorch alleges in the lawsuit that the city applies its residency requirement selectively, and says several department heads own residential property outside city limits but have not been asked to resign from their position. The lawsuit says the city has used its residency requirement to terminate female, minority employees.

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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