Citizens for Equality, Inc., a corporation formed in order to bring the suit, says the city violated the Fourteeth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by bestowing nearly a million dollars on the Asheville City Schools Foundation and CoThinkk; two organizations that award scholarships to high school students.
Citizens for Equality’s incorporators are former city council member Carl Mumpower, former City Risk Manager John Miall, Jr., and Atty. Ruth C. Smith, who is also acting as the group’s legal counsel. Listed as co-plaintiffs are three high school students, who as minors are not named. The students’ rights have been violated, the suit says, because they are white and therefore excluded from appying for scholarship money and thus are deprived of their Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause reads, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The plaintiffs contend that “Defendants, acting under color of North Carolina Law, have adopted a policy and are purposely discriminating against Plaintiff’s Student Members because of their race, because only Black students are elegible for the City of Asheville Scholarship.”
The complaint continues, “ACSF’s involvement in accepting funding, establishing, and administering the City of Asheville Scholarship entwines itself with the Ciy of Asheville’s government action, and ACSF is a state actor with regard to its actions as alleged herein … The City has provided significant encouragement to ACSF’s actions by funding the City of Asheville Scholarship and [then] ACSF precisely as to how and to whom the scholarship shall be awarded, including requiring that ACSF discriminate against persons on the basis of race. ACSF has exercised powers that are traditionally the exlusive prerogative of the state.
“Plaintiff’s student members are irreparably harmed by Defendants’ deprivation of their rights to equal protection,” the complaint states. The second and third counts of the suit accuse the defendants of acting together in a conspiracy to abridge the students’ federal and state constitutional rights, respectively.
The plaintiffs ask for a jury trial, for costs of bringing the suit, and for the elemination of race as an eligibilty factor for the scholarship.
ACSF, its Executive Director Copland Arnold Rudolph, and City Manager Debra Campbell, are listed as co-defendants.
The city has 60 days to answer the complaint.
Plaintiff Mumpower issued a statement as follows:
“I was two years old when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that treating school children differently on the basis of their color was neither just nor Constitutionally sincere. In the intervening 66 years, we have steadily built on that landmark decision and today we have much to celebrate on the never perfect road to supporting a level playing field for all Americans. It is important we not go backwards.
Racism exists and it can come from some surprising sources. Such is the case with the City of Asheville’s decision to mock our unifying progress by investing public dollars in a color-based scholarship initiative. Misapplication of funds, racial filters, and indifference to the rule of law is reckless, morally wrong, divisive, and anything but a formula for progress.
This racially based student scholarship, funded out of citizen pockets, seemed especially wrong to a group of locals who reluctantly stepped forward and partnered with Judicial Watch to bring Federal suit against the City of Asheville. We take no pleasure in either the daunting nature of this undertaking nor the fact our opposition operates out of a 200 million-dollar budget and hands-off indifference by biased local media outlets.
That said, I am personally grateful that a former city employee and former city council member were able to join forces with a value-driven attorney with a courage button and essentially say ‘this is not right’ to Goliath.
We now have a growing group of similarly minded citizens who believe we are on firm moral and legal ground, fully intend to fight the good fight, and will then be content to rest the outcome in the hands of higher authority.”