City of Asheville to donate funds from class action lawsuit to two local organizations

advancing racial equity illustration

 

The City of Asheville will make significant donations to two local nonprofits as part of a legal settlement to disperse funds acquired prior to a 2018 class action lawsuit involving the City’s capital fee collected as part of the combined utility statement.

 

The lawsuit claimed that property developers had paid these fees to the City without legal authority to charge for them. All potential claimants were property developers. The City has consistently denied that it lacked the legal authority to collect these fees or that any individuals or entities were harmed through the collection of these fees. The settlement was undertaken to mitigate legal risk and avoid unnecessary expense.

 

The money for these donations comes directly from the settlement amount following the payment of all verified claims filed by developers for reimbursement.   As part of the settlement agreement, the City must give the remaining money to charity. The recipient organizations required approval by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the judge in the action. 

 

The total settlement was $1.85 million. Of this, $949,185.12 was left unclaimed and will be dispersed between two organizations — the Asheville City Schools Foundation and CoThinkk

 

During their April 13 meeting, Asheville City Council will vote to approve the $949,185.12 to these two organizations. This was not a grant process, but rather an internal recommendation made by City Council and then submitted to the class action plaintiffs and the court. A traditional public process could not occur due to the City’s inability to unilaterally select the entities. The Council chose these organizations because of the work they are doing to advance racial equity in our community. 

 

How the money will be used

Asheville City Schools Foundation The donation will be used to fund two scholarship funds. The first will establish a scholarship to be awarded in perpetuity to Black high school students within Asheville City Schools, with special consideration given for Black students pursuing a career in education. The second will establish a scholarship fund for Black, Indigenous, or People of Color who are educators and staff of Asheville City Schools and who are pursuing their next level of education and/or certification.

Founded in 1988 by parents, community members, and school personnel, the Asheville City Schools Foundation works to increase local support for public education, particularly by engaging the community to increase equity in education.

 

CoThinkk — CoThinkk is focused on bringing together community leaders who care about the economic and social well-being of communities of color in Asheville and Western North Carolina. This donation will be used in three areas: 

  • To provide access to resources, capacity-building, and equitable grant making for local/regional organizations/change agents led by BIPOC/African-American/Latinx to address racial equity and structural change; 
  • As general operating support for CoThinkk to build and support innovative internal capacity within our four strategic levers: healing, access to resources, capacity-building, and systems change; and
  • To create a structure/fund anchored in equity to address racial equity and structural/systems change. CoThinkk will grow and leverage dollars from regional/national funders and social impact investors designated for long-term regranting to regional organizations/groups led by BIPOC organizations/change agents.

 

Both groups will provide written reports to the Asheville City Council about how the donated funds have been used. Reports shall be provided twice annually with the first one being given six months from the date of donation, and continuing every six months thereafter until funds have been exhausted (or two years following the date of donation, whichever comes first). 

 

 

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