By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Efforts to open Minnesota’s first black-led credit union are moving forward.

In August, Village Financial Cooperative fired its leader, Me’Lea Connelly, for alleged mismanagement.

Connelly says she is heartbroken that the conversation is not about the work the Association for Black Economic Power is doing by starting a credit union in north Minneapolis. She is speaking out to tell her side of the story, and she hopes people can move on, and that the work that’s being done can continue.

For three years, Connelly led the effort to bring a credit union to north Minneapolis. The opening was set for the end of 2019, until she was let go.

“I can say that it feels personal to me. You know, I don’t believe that it’s necessary to, you know, attack someone’s character or ruin their reputation in order to move on with the work,” Connelly said.

Me’Lea Connelly (credit: CBS)

ABEP says Connelly was removed from her position for organizational mismanagement, misconduct in regard to the organization’s finances and credit union’s application process.

“Those things are absolutely false,” Connelly said.

Connelly says she was let go because she reported and opposed discriminatory actions that were happening in the organization.

“There was discrimination against a high-ranking leader in the organization, and directly because of their concerns that this person was not black, and that their role in leadership was inappropriate due to the fact that they were white,” Connelly said.

Connelly said she was directed to fire the only white person in the organization. When she complained, she claims she was placed on leave, and then was fired.

“We are black-led, and that’s in the fact of honoring the community that the mission is driven towards, but that doesn’t mean we’re black only,” Connelly said. “It doesn’t mean we discriminate against other people within our organization because they aren’t black.”

The organization says it cannot comment because there is an active investigation. What it can say is major financial backers continue to support the movement, and Village Financial Cooperative will soon be a reality for people in north Minneapolis.

A community forum is planned two weeks from Friday.

Reg Chapman