CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A consultant told the Charlotte City Council Monday it should establish a targeted race- and gender-based hiring program for city issued contracts – something the city abandoned under threat of litigation in 2003.
The recommendation by the Baltimore law firm Tydings & Rosenberg contradicts an earlier report in 2011 from a Florida-based consultant, who said the city shouldn’t have a race-based hiring program.
It’s unclear what council members will do.
When the Florida consultant, MGT of America, told council members the city shouldn’t bring back a race-based program, some council members were unhappy, and lobbied to have a second review. That prompted criticism from Republican council member Warren Cooksey, who said his colleagues were “consultant shopping.”
After the city dropped its race and gender-based program nine years ago, it replaced it with a program that gives advantages to small businesses. The city hoped that would also bolster women- and minority-owned firms that receive city contracts or who are sub-contractors receiving city work.
MGT of America found that the small business program did that. But the consultant said there were still significant disparities between how much work white-owned firms received and how much minority firms received, particularly those owned by African-Americans.
But MGT said it didn’t think a new race-based program would withstand legal challenges.
Council members voted in February for a second look at the data and hired Tydings & Rosenberg for up to $25,000, including travel expenses.
Franklin Lee of Tydings & Rosenberg said he “disputes” MGT’s interpretation.
“The number of minority firms has increased,” Lee said. “The remedy has been partially successful, but not totally successful.”
He said that minority- and women-owned firms are getting more work. But he said much of that increase is because there are more minority-owned businesses now than a decade ago.
• Creating a “hybrid” program that targets small businesses and also women- and minority-owned firms.
• Having a policy to rotate vendors for informal contracts.
• Creating a computerized system for contractors to be alerted when work that would suit them comes available. It would also make it easier for them to bid on projects.
Council members didn’t vote on the new recommendations. They will be discussed by council members at the committee level.