Dixon close to being hired by minority contractors group

March 26, 2010|By Robbie Whelan and Julie Scharper

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon has a new job, with a group that has long been a strong supporter of her, and vice versa.

Dixon said has been helping the Maryland Minority Contractors Association with marketing and is in the process of hashing out a permanent role with the organization.

"All of this is preliminary," said Dixon, who left office Feb. 4 as part of a plea deal to settle criminal charges of embezzlement and perjury. "We're still in discussions."

Dixon said she has been working part time to help the association plan a minority business showcase at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture next week.

"I'm going to be doing some fundraising for them and really get them more visibly on the map," said Dixon. "Right now I'm helping them in identifying some of the great companies that are out there."

Pless B. Jones Sr., president of the contractors group, said Dixon would be charged with drawing new members.

"We've been courting her for a little while, and she always supported the minority-contractor community," said Jones. "We're happy to have her; we're delighted to have someone of her stature."

Jones' company, P&J Contracting Company Inc., received millions of dollars in contract awards for demolition work on city projects while Dixon was in office.

In late 2008, the city awarded P&J a $4 million job to demolish buildings at Uplands, a city-sponsored redevelopment of a former public housing complex, despite the contractor's failure to meet minority business inclusion guidelines.

Last September, the city awarded P&J a $378,477 contract to demolish the Maryland Chemical Co.'s headquarters in South Baltimore to make way for a planned slots casino, without advertising the job publicly. Dixon, then mayor, later directed the city's development agency to bid all future demolition contracts openly.

"She helped out Pless Jones tremendously," said Wayne R. Frazier Sr., president of the Maryland- Washington Minority Contractors Association, a competitor to Jones' group that split off in 2001. "It's always been said in the African-American business community, there's never a place for any of the elected officials, or those on higher levels of government to land once they leave the public sector. I'm really quite impressed if this is true that Pless was wise enough and has enough revenue to take her on the payroll. I think it's a very shrewd move on his part."

Dixon said she brings to the association the experience of "being engaged and involved from a government perspective" and "networks and relationships with companies that I've worked with over the years." Her title and salary have not been finalized, said Dixon, who receives an $83,000 annual pension from the city.

She has begun her 500 hours of court-mandated community service, working at Our Daily Bread and My Sister's Place, she said. And she is blogging, at sheiladixon.com, which proclaims "A new chapter begins."

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