Contractor sues to stop minority business plan

March 17, 1994|By Karen E. Ludwig | Karen E. Ludwig,Contributing Writer

A 640-pound man sued yesterday to strike down a city program designed to help minority and women contractors, claiming that it unconstitutionally discriminates against disabled people.

Donald E. Keister, 34, said in an interview that his company, Investors Restoration and Maintenance Association Inc., has lost contracts because it is not recognized as a minority business enterprise by the city.

Companies that qualify for Baltimore's minority business program get preferred status in bidding for city contracts. Investors Restoration, which assists road construction crews, was rejected because the program only covers racial or ethnic minorities and women, not disabled people, according to the suit.

"I should be able to have the same rights and enjoy the same programs," Mr. Keister said in an interview after filing the suit in Baltimore Circuit Court. According to the suit, his company has been certified as a minority business by the state.

Mr. Keister has morbid obesity, a medical condition in which a person is 100 percent or more over ideal weight, according to the suit. The 6-foot-6 man is three times his normal body weight and suffers from asthma, hypertension and diabetes, the suit said.

Mr. Keister said that because of his weight, he is often perceived as incompetent, making it more difficult to get contracts. Being accepted by the city's minority business program would help his business, he said.

The suit, which does not seek monetary damages, asks that the city minority business program be halted until the disabled are included in the definition of minorities.

In October 1990, Mr. Keister filed a similar suit against the city, demanding that his business be certified as a minority contractor. He said yesterday that he dropped that suit after city officials promised him they would look into the matter.

No one from the city's minority business program or the mayor's office was available for comment yesterday.

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