Proposal would broaden state policy on minority contractors

November 29, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Private groups that receive state bond money from the General Assembly would have to meet minority contracting goals under a proposal discussed yesterday by the state Board of Public Works.

The legislature annually approves tens of millions of dollars in bond funds to assist organizations ranging from the Junior League to Johns Hopkins. But despite discussion of the issue over the years, the grants have never been subjected to the state's goal of ensuring that contracts have at least 25 percent minority- or women-owned businesses participating.

"It is a responsibility of a state or municipal entity not to support invidious private discrimination," said Arnold M. Jolivet, president of the American Minority Contractors and Businesses Association Inc.

After Jolivet's presentation, Gov. Martin O'Malley and the other two board members agreed to hold a public hearing on the issue at their Dec. 12 meeting.

The issue came up in connection with a $5.75 million bond award to Loyola College to help pay for a $16 million expansion of the library it shares with the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Jolivet told board members that no minority firms were invited to bid on the project. No Loyola representatives attended the meeting.

Loyola spokeswoman Courtney Jolley said the college values its relationships with minority contractors and seeks to expand their role. But she said it's difficult to anticipate the impact of Jolivet's proposal.

Since O'Malley took over as governor and Peter Franchot as comptroller this year, minority business goals have been a focus of the board, which votes on most state contracts.

The two were ready to grant Jolivet's request yesterday. About 2 1/2 minutes into Jolivet's presentation, O'Malley, without exchanging a word with Franchot, interrupted to say, "OK, comptroller makes a motion, seconded by the governor, all in favor signify by saying `Aye.' The motion passes."

After a bit of confusion, O'Malley explained what his motion was - that capital grants should be subject to state minority business goals.

Nancy K. Kopp, the state treasurer and third member of the board, said she agreed with the gist of O'Malley's idea but had "strong reservations" about adopting such a policy without deliberation and public discussion. O'Malley then agreed to revise his motion and instead call for a public hearing in two weeks. Franchot agreed.

"I believe these capital grants should have the same goals that normal state contracts do," Franchot said.

Del. Adrienne A.W. Jones, the Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the capital budget subcommittee, said she thinks the idea is good, at least for large projects. andy.green@baltsun.com

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Related coverage at baltimoresun.com/minority

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