Conversations around race and racial justice

St. Paul City Council apologizes for reparations commission hiring process

Group of mostly Black people stand behind a speaker with a microphone
Rev. Richard Pittman speaks at a press conference against the alleged hiring of a non-descendent of chattel slavery to lead St. Paul's reparations efforts. City officials on Thursday said the hire has declined the post.
Feven Gerezgiher | MPR News file

Days after Black St. Paul community members criticized a reported new hire set to manage the city's reparations commission, city officials apologized “for the pain caused” in the course of the hiring process.

The St. Paul City Council established the commission earlier this year to advise the council and mayor on how to best address harms against descendants of American slavery.

Community members alleged the unidentified new hire is not a descendant of American slavery.

“We're trying to create a space where our kids and our families begin to heal. And this disrupts the healing process,” St. Paul resident Marea Perry said Tuesday. “We are tired. It's been 404 years. We want to continue to have things that are led by us and moved by us and it doesn't look like that right now.”

In a statement released Thursday, city officials also apologized for the negative scrutiny brought upon the hire, who "has also been deeply affected by this situation," according to the release. It confirms the person declined the role.

“We have heard the feedback given by the community and are actively working to better serve this critical work. This includes revisiting the design of this role and its duties and having conversations in the near future with commissioners and concerned community members to repair trust and align on shared vision for this work," reads the release.

"Our Council is firmly committed to the work of the Reparations Commission, and we hold ourselves accountable in the desire to right the harms of the past," the release continues. "We are committed to not replicating systemic racism in our processes today and hope for this to be a learning moment for our Council that results in a better path forward with our commissioners, community, and staff."

The St. Paul City Council selected 11 people from an applicant pool to serve on the commission in June, then also opened applications for a senior policy analyst to manage the commission part-time. The analyst’s other responsibilities include serving as the city’s liaison with district councils, according to the job listing.

The job application was open for three weeks, according to the listing. Annual pay for the role ranges around $81,000 to $110,000.

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