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Charge School District with Dismal Minority Spending
6/4/2014 2:36:06 PM

Marlon Kimpson
By Barney Blakeney

Charleston Sen. Marlon Kimpson promised to work hard for the constituents of Senate Dist 42. He’s keeping that promise with recent scrutiny of minority business participation in Charleston County School District contract awards and procurement spending.

CCSD has the largest annual budget of any local government entity. The next fiscal budget is expected to top $400 million and the school district is asking voters to approve additional sales taxes to complete the most recent phase of a nearly $500 million building project.

In a letter to CCSD Chief financial Officer Michael Bobby, Kimpson said he doesn’t agree with the district’s conclusion that the school district has had ‘success’ with its minority business spending for construction and procurement since 2010.

The district has spent about $123 million for construction since a one-cent sales tax program was initiated in 2010. Less than six percent of the amount has been spent with Black contractors.

Small and women owned businesses have gotten greater shares of the district’s construction expenditures, 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The percentage of awards granted to African American businesses outside construction contracts also are dismal, he said.

In fiscal year 2013 the district’s total general operating fund expenditures were $203 million. Of that total less than 3.5 percent was awarded to racial minority (Black) firms, he said. Without a disparity study, Kimpson said he can’t determine what the appropriate minority spending goal should be.

Because there is no recent study information, Kimpson said he also can’t determine the availability of Black owned firms in construction, architecture, engineering, professional and other services and goods and supplies. Kimpson said he hopes to secure funding for a disparity study.

Still, he said Friday, “I don’t think the numbers look good. I have to believe there has been a lack of participation by minorities. Looking at the numbers, it appears every minority group but African Americans have benefited.”

Adding that the apparent disparities are not unique to Charleston County School District, Kimpson said he will apply the same scrutiny to other local government agencies. CCSD’s minority business participation program is a classic example of how entities create minority participation programs, but fail to get full participation. Private sector businesses can’t be expected to pursue minority business participation if tax-funded government agencies do not, he said.

Kimpson said he’s raising the issue because the timing is right and it’s also the right thing to do.

CCSD officials did not respond to requests for comment for this story by presstime.

Visitor Comments

Submitted By: Roger Clegg, Ctr for Equal Opportunity Submitted: 6/4/2014
Why do race, ethnicity, and sex need to be considered at all in deciding who gets awarded a contract? It's good to make sure contracting programs are open to all, that bidding opportunities are widely publicized beforehand, and that no one gets discriminated against because of skin color, national origin, or sex. But that means no preferences because of skin color, etc. either--whether it's labeled a "set-aside," a "quota," or a "goal," since they all end up amounting to the same thing. Such discrimination is unfair and divisive; it breeds corruption and otherwise costs the taxpayers and businesses money to award a contract to someone other than the lowest bidder; and it's almost always illegal—indeed, unconstitutional—to boot (see 42 U.S.C. section 1981). Those who insist on engaging in such discrimination deserve to be sued, and they will lose. As for disparity studies, they are expensive and there is no reason for them except to justify this kind of discrimination -- and they are a waste of money because they under current case law they are an inadequate justification anyway.

Submitted By: separate not equal Submitted: 6/10/2014
This is to assure that the people making the decisions aren't awarding the contracts to their buddies and friends of friends!!! In an area like Charleston where most of the decision makers are white men who do you think will and has been getting the major contracts?

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