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Cedar Rapids man says city ordinance discriminates against whites
Lawsuit: Requiring 5 members of Citizens Review Board to be people of color is unconstitutional
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man is suing the city and Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell because he asserts an ordinance that requires five of the nine-member Citizens Review Board to be people of color is racially discriminatory.
Kevin Wymore, who is white, filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court. Wymore is a retired Wisconsin public health analyst with a master’s degree in public policy who volunteers to teach English as a second language to immigrants from West Africa.
In the lawsuit, he said he followed the public discussions about a proposed police review board and attended City Council meetings about the subject. When a draft ordinance included the provisions about membership, he made public comments and warned the council that such an ordinance would be unconstitutional.
The unpaid board reviews quarterly reports from the police chief, including reports on racial and ethnic data of traffic stops; serves on a broader committee to select candidates for police chief; and monitors complaints about officers, according to the lawsuit.
Wymore applied for a position on the board in May 2021 but wasn’t selected. He then encountered former Mayor Brad Hart at an event and asked why he wasn’t selected. Hart indicated “there were only a few spots for the general public” on the board. Wymore understood that to mean that as a white person he wasn’t considered because five spots were reserved for “people of color.”
In January, he applied again when there were two open seats but was rejected again, according to the lawsuit. A city employee told him in an email, he said, that O’Donnell didn’t consider him because he had no experience working with or volunteering with an organization that serves underserved populations.
The lawsuit asserts the city’s ordinance violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
“A racial classification, regardless of purported motivation, is presumptively invalid and can be upheld only upon an extraordinary justification,” according to case law that Wymore includes in his lawsuit. “The constitution abhors classifications based on race, not only because those classifications can harm favored races or are based on illegitimate motives, but also because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the ordinance violates the Constitution; prevent the defendants from using an applicant’s membership in a racial group as a requirement to serve; order the city to disband the board and reconstitute its membership; and order an independent monitor to supervise the actions of the city.
Wymore’s lawyer is Alan Ostergren, a former Muscatine County prosecutor who now is president and chief counsel for the Kirkwood Institute in Des Moines, a conservative public-interest law firm focusing on economic and property rights, constitutional governance and separation of powers.
Ostergren has helped represent the state in legal fights over restricting abortion in Iowa before Roe v. Wade was overturned.
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