School board to examine contractor's compliance Doubts center on question of minority participation

March 27, 1996|By Marego Athans | Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County school board member Robert F. Dashiell last night asked the school board's attorney to examine a contractor's claims that it used minority-owned businesses in an air control project worth more than $1 million at three schools.

Johnson Controls was awarded a contract last March to install an energy-saving air system under the agreement that the company would use minority subcontractors on the project, school district officials said.

Pressed to prove its commitment a year later -- when the project came up for a $98,663 addition -- the company told school officials it had 8 percent minority participation from a subcontractor called Electrical Automation Services Inc. (EASI) of Anne Arundel County.

But that firm is not certified by Baltimore City or the state as a minority- or female-owned business, according to the agencies that certify such firms. The company's owner, Vickie A. Pettie, said yesterday that she applied to the city for certification within the past five years but was denied, and said she is in the process of applying with the state.

"I have reason to believe the information supplied to us by Johnson Controls is false with regard to minority participation," Mr. Dashiell said before the board's attorney deferred the matter to a closed session.

Under a state law adopted in 1978 and amended since, state-funded contracts must try to achieve 14 percent participation by firms owned by blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, women, disabled people or nonprofit groups that represent the disabled.

The board adopted a similar policy in 1982, aiming for 10 percent minority participation, which was the percentage required by state policy at the time.

Greg Jarosinski, a representative from Johnson Controls, said yesterday that he was unable to discuss the matter but did say that EASI was a "100 percent woman-owned firm."

Ms. Pettie, said that Baltimore's Equal Opportunity Compliance Office had denied her certification because she managed the business from an office and didn't carry tools around so officials didn't believe she was involved in the business.

"I'm in the business 100 percent of every day -- hiring, firing, assigning contracts, everything," she said.

Mr. Dashiell said he can't understand why the school board approved the $98,663 contract addition at its March 12 meeting, which he didn't attend, because he had told facilities chief Faith C. Hermann and other board members of his concerns.

Ms. Hermann said last night that she had no reason to question Johnson Controls, a longtime board contractor, but had requested "additional documentation" on minority participation.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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