Files complaint with U.S. Department of Justice
Compiled by MCJ Staff
Coinciding with the state’s celebration of the emancipation of slavery in the United States, The Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP filed on Tuesday a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice against the City of Milwaukee for its continuous noncompliance with civil rights and equal opportunity laws.
“The DOJ should fully investigate the complaint and direct the City of Milwaukee to discontinue practices and institute changes that will end both disparate impact on and the disparate treatment of minority and women contractors,” said NAACP Milwaukee Branch President James Hall in a press statement.
The civil rights organization is also calling for a community-driven external audit of the city’s administrative application of civil rights and equal opportunity laws and policies as it relates to the city’s procurement system.
The audit would help the city to determine the following:
• If procurement coordination between departments is compliant with local, state, and federal civil/equal rights laws and policies;
• If procurement coordination between the city’s subcontractors and their subcontractors is compliant with local, state, and federal civil/equal rights laws and policies;
• If the city has operated its procurement system in violation of the Federal False Claims Act;
• If skill training is required in local, state, and federal civil/equal rights laws and policies for staff charged with administering the city’s procurement system and
• What actions the city will need to take to address oversight, coordination, and administrative operations of its procurement system to ensure compliance and local, state, and federal civil/equal rights laws and policies and to mitigate disparities.
Hall called on Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Willie Hines to establish a working group or task force of community members to oversee the audit of the city’s administrative application of the civil rights laws and policies pertaining to the procurement system.
In a letter to the mayor and council president, Hall said the audit should cover the time frame used for the D. Wilson Consulting Services’ disparity study (2005-2010).
“We believe this audit should be conducted primarily to determine if there were administrative issues with applying local, state, and federal civil/equal rights laws and policies that precipitated the disparities in contracting shown by the recent D. Wilson Consulting Service report and issues related to the same in the Mason Tillman 2005 study of the Emerging Business Enterprise (EBE) program.”
The Tillman, Wilson and EBE reports show conflicting dollar amounts procured by the city. When carefully studied, the conflicting amounts could call into question the validity of the city procurement system’s transparency. The Mason Tillman Study reveals the deficiencies in the city’s administrative and oversight approach to contract procurement.
The Wilson and Tillman studies collected anecdotal evidence of discrimination compiled from 62 one-on-one personal interviews with business owners who have done business with or attempted to do business with the city and/or MMSD as a prime contractor or as a subcontractor.
The interviews supports the belief the city’s approach to contract procurement does not address the underutilization of specific race/ethnic and gender groups in the areas of construction and goods and services.
According to the Wilson report, some minority business owners reported being confronted with racial slurs, never offered opportunity and did not get paid for work performed, etc. causing economic hardships on their small businesses.
“The city does not have uniform policies or procedures for all departments within the city that ensure adequate protection for subcontractors, which are typically small, minority and women-owned businesses, from business practices that can be detrimental to the survival of those businesses,” according to Hall.
Hall noted the city has spent $1 million over 18 years on four disparities in contracting studies and found large disparities, as well as poor administration of equal opportunity in all city contracting opportunities between Majority and Minority/Women Business Enterprises.
Yet, despite the city’s documented knowledge of these problems and despite having specific recommendations on how to reduce or eliminate them, the complaints persist.
“The NAACP’s 102-year mission aims to ensure that the fundamental rights of all Americans are protected and advanced,” Hall said. “Our request is being made out of that historical focus and concern.
“Consequently, we emphasize that it is the responsibility of each political leader in government and all community stakeholders to uphold the federal and state constitutional rights of citizens and ensure that these rights are fully protected at all times.”