NAACP files suit against city

On Tuesday, June 19 in coordination with the State of Wisconsin’s celebration of emancipation of slavery in the United States of America, the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP filed a complaint with the United States Department of Justice against the City of Milwaukee for its continuous noncompliance with civil rights and equal opportunity laws, policies and rules germane to its contract procurement system and economic development approach.

NAACP president James Hall stated:

“The NAACP’s 102-year mission aims to ensure that the fundamental rights of all Americans are protected and advanced. 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.

We know the following to be true:

1. NAACP’s request for a community- driven external audit of the City of Milwaukee’s administrative application of civil rights and equal opportunity laws and policies germane to the city’s contract procurement system on June 19, 2011 has not been responded to by City government.

2. The City of Milwaukee has spent $1 million over 18 years on 4 disparities in contracting studies. Each reported large disparities and poor administration of equal opportunity in all City of Milwaukee contracting opportunities between Majority and Minority/Women Business Enterprises. Studies: (1990 Conta and Associates “A Study to Identify Discrimination Practices in the Milwaukee Construction Marketplace;” 1992 Affirmative Action Consulting, Ltd. and Ralph G. Moore and Associates, “M/WBE Disparity Study County, City, and MPS;” 2006 Mason Tillman EBE Study (hereinafter, Mason Tillman Study); and 2010 D. Wilson Consulting, LLC City/MMSD Disparity 2010 (hereinafter, D. Wilson Study)

3. The City of Milwaukee has ineffective administration and enforcement of equal opportunity laws: The D. Wilson and Mason Tillman studies collected anecdotal evidence of discrimination compiled from sixty-two 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 -. Collectively, this evidence supports the conclusion that the City’s approach to contract procurement does not address the under-utilization of specific race/ethnic and gender groups in the areas of construction and goods and services. Some minority business owner 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. Sources: D. Wilson’s Business Demographic Survey, September 27 – November 29, 2010. The Mason Tillman Study Chapter 7, pp. 7-29.

4. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin filed a suit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on May 1, 2012 contending that Milwaukee ordinance 370, meant to ensure that minority contractors get a share of city business and replaced the filed Milwaukee ordinance 360 (emerging business enterprises), is unconstitutional. It asks a court to declare the ordinance invalid and enjoin the city from enforcing it.

5. These complaints persist despite the City’s documented knowledge of these problems and despite having specific recommendations on how to reduce or eliminate them. Knowing failure to institute such procedures contributes to the disparity in contracting between minority and non-minority contractors.

Hall further stated,

“For the above stated reasons and others outlined in our complaint, 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 woman contractors. In addition, the NAACP would like the City to honor our request for a community driven external audit of its administrative application of civil rights and equal opportunity laws germane to the city procurement system and use the results to guide any corrective action that the City undertakes to remedy noncompliance.