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Cedar Rapids’ diversity team hasn’t met in roughly six months, as City reopens search for diversity, equity and inclusion manager

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 9:25 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Cedar Rapids Employee Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team hasn’t had any activity between December 2020 to May 2021. The team is supposed to perform a similar role to the diversity, equity and inclusion manager.

That’s a new position the city of Cedar Rapids created after the Black Lives Matter protests during the summer. The city of Cedar Rapids told city council members on Friday, in an email, it would renew its search after not coming to an agreement with a potential candidate. The city released the email on its website after our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team sent an open records request.

The city began the search process for a diversity, equity and inclusion manager in September 2020. Anthony Arrington, who is a managing partner at a Cedar Rapids recruitment business, said there’s no excuse why that position should not be filled.

Arrington, who is also the media representative for the Advocates for Social Justice, said this wait is more proof the city is all talk on diversity and no action.

“I think what it shows is a lack, in my opinion is a lack of urgency and a lack of focus by our leadership in this city,” he said.

Maria Johnson, who is a spokesperson for the city, said 45 people applied for the position. The city hired GovHR for $21,000 to help search for a candidate.

The brochure, which is attached to the application, said the new manager position would “lead the City’s efforts to promote and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion within the organization through programs, trainings and services.”

That new role is similar to the role provided by the Cedar Rapids Employee Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team. The city’s website said their team’s purpose “is to create, maintain and promote opportunities that enhance diversity, inclusion and equity within the City.”

The team has had no activity from December 2020 to May 2021, according to a response from a...
The team has had no activity from December 2020 to May 2021, according to a response from a public records request(None)

KCRG-TV9′s i9 Investigative Team reached out to the city to talk about the lack of activity from the Cedar Rapids Employee Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team. However, the city said it would only answer additional questions in writing.

The city of Cedar Rapids declined to comment on why it would only take questions in writing. However, a city spokesperson said it wasn’t related to COVID-19.

In an e-mailed statement on behalf of the city, Mayor Brad Hart said a former employee created the Cedar Rapids Employee Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team. And once the employee left the city, team meetings were paused.

He said in an email the new diversity, equity, and inclusion manager will decide the team’s future.

“When the new DEI Manager is hired, that person will have the opportunity to decide if they would like to reconvene the City DEI team or structure something different,” Hart said.

Mayor Hart is running for re-election against Amara Andrews and Tiffany O’Donnell.

Amara Andrews said, in an emailed statement, it is concerning that the city couldn’t fill a position related to diversity.

She said it is even more concerning the Employee Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee hasn’t met in over six months.

“I understand this is difficult work, but if we say we are going to make DEI a priority,” Andrews said. “We must take it seriously. It cannot be performative. We can and we must do better.”

Tiffany O’Donnell, who is also running for mayor, said it was unfortunate the city couldn’t come to an agreement with a candidate.

She said she hopes city leaders make hiring a position a top priority.

“This position is critical to our city moving forward in a way that represents all citizens,” O’Donnell said.

Applications will likely stay open until July 12.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated after publication to add Tiffany O’Donnell’s comments.

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