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Small Black Business Firms File Lawsuit Against Governor Charlie Crist

 TALLAHASSEE--N-tersections Communications Group, Steele Communications Group, Medium Four, Circle of One and the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against Governor Charlie Crist, the Florida Department of Management Services and the Moore/Ketchum Partnership for damages and declaratory and injunctive relief against racial and ethnic discrimination. The suit was filed as a result of alleged discriminatory practices in the Executive Office of the Governor’s (EOG) 2010 Census RFP 269, and asks the court to determine whether former Gov. Jeb Bush’s One Florida Initiative is being adhered to.

The One Florida Initiative, implemented by Bush is designed to “provide equal state contracting opportunities to all qualified businesses, to prohibit discrimination in contracting because of race, gender, creed, color or national origin, and to promote the full realization of equal contracting opportunities through a positive, continuing program in each executive agency and the Office of the Governor.” This Executive Order was never rescinded by Governor Crist, and the plaintiffs believe it is not being upheld by the current administration.

Since fiscal year 2002-2003,total African-American spending in the State of Florida took a steep decline from $450 million to $100 million— 88 percent. In the most recent fiscal year, the majority of contracts to minority-owned businesses with the State of Florida were awarded to women-owned businesses – accounting for 44 percent of State spending.

The suit also questions the integrity of the bid and scoring process by the EOG. The Request for Proposal was issued by the Governor’s Office on November 19, 2009, with an initial award date of January 5, 2010. From repeated delays in intent to award dates to a questionable evaluation process, the organizations claim that mission-critical opportunities to reach blacks— as outlined in the national Census 2010 awareness campaign— were missed during Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday and Black History Month.

The categories were broken down by race, geography, and other demographics defined as hard-to-count by the Executive Office of the Governor. Award categories three and four targeting Black Americans accounted for a combined $420,000.

The total statewide campaign is funded with $2.11 million federal dollars towards reaching undercounted populations— Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians, the homeless including homeless veterans, the disabled including disabled veterans, migrant farm workers, college and university students, part-time Florida residents and rural counties.

“This case is not just about us as Black-owned firms expecting fair opportunity in state procurement, but moreover as members of the community at-large. There is much more at stake than contract dollars,” said Lakeitha Grey. “The Census count affects direction of funds for education, access to health and emergency services, improvement of our roads, social aid and assistance programs.”

Black firms are not the only ones feeling slighted in these particular awards for the statewide Census. The Asian American Federation of Florida has filed a formal protest of the bid in the account of the award of outreach to the Asian population.

Awards were distributed to three white-owned firms, one Florida association, and one Hispanic firm. A black subcontractor, ESP Media, was part of the Moore Ketchum Partnership project team that was awarded the two contracts targeting blacks.

“Black vendors are too often reduced to playing the role of subcontractor as the only means of doing business with the State,” said Gene Franklin, President and Founder of the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce. “Those who dare to stand on their own as prime contractors are typically excluded in sizeable contracts such as this.”

After the 2000 Census public awareness campaign, awarded to the Florida Association of Broadcasters, Florida landed at the bottom among the 10 most populous states due to undercounting its growing minority population.

 

Contact: Email Address: news@wctv.tv



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