Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cuyahoga County gets in on the minority-front company scam

Once again, Scene Magazine is out there asking the tough questions.

Scene reports on the asbestos removal at the new county HQ --

The City of Cleveland doesn't have an exclusive franchise on the minority-front company scam, whereby black contractors are guaranteed a percentage of government projects -- in hopes of creating black jobs -- but instead simply serve as fronts and kick most of the work back to Whitey.

Scene's recent cover story "Black on Black Crime" [February 21] revealed how city officials knowingly let the scam run for years. Yet things aren't much different at the county.

Last month, monitors overseeing asbestos removal for the new county headquarters discovered a curious thing: Lawrence Harris Construction, the black contractor on the job, had the same people on its payroll as the white contractor, Precision Environmental.

Identical payrolls are usually a tip-off that the black company is being used as a front, while the white company is doing all the work. In this case, both claimed they were simply getting workers from the same union hall. It was an accident, Mom, honest.

Weirdly enough, monitors weren't buying this time. They told Harris to hire a more "diversified" workforce and "They corrected it within the week," says Adrian Maldonado, director of the county's Office of Procurement & Diversity. "We're gonna send a message to every contractor. We cannot have those kinds of games that were played elsewhere here."

But if the county really believes this, why did Precision get the job in the first place?

Seven years ago, the feds discovered it was using another black company, Choice Construction, as a front at NASA Glenn. Precision was caught giving Choice money to pay Precision's workers. In the annals of crime, it was not considered a textbook example of hiding the evidence.

Choice's owner was eventually forced to repay the feds and do a prison stint for tax evasion. But she kept getting government contracts. So has Precision.

The question: Who's paying whom to look the other way?

Here is the PD version of events

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