Civil Rights Panel May Talk First Federal Action on Hold, Chairman Says

By Patterson, Steve | The Florida Times Union, June 14, 1996 | Go to article overview

Civil Rights Panel May Talk First Federal Action on Hold, Chairman Says


Patterson, Steve, The Florida Times Union


A civil rights panel that called this week for federal

investigations of Jacksonville City Hall may settle for talks

about hiring more minority contractors.

That could effectively defuse the threat of federal audits and

the possibility of losing millions of dollars in federal aid.

The panel's chairman said yesterday he thought Mayor John

Delaney was working to improve old racial disparities in city

government.

"I personally feel the city has made strides," said Rabbi

Solomon Agin, who heads a state advisory panel for the U.S.

Commission on Civil Rights. "Ground has been covered, and I

think that's a credit to the mayor."

The panel voted Tuesday to tell federal agencies it suspected

the city discriminated against minorities seeking city

contracts, even though contracts are awarded by competitive bid.

That would violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and could lead

federal agencies to cancel millions of dollars of aid annually.

But Agin said he wants to talk again with city officials before

contacting any other federal offices.

"That's a very serious charge, and I don't believe that you

want to make that charge without making sure you have all your

bases covered," he said. Delaney said his office would prove

that the city, which once awarded almost no contracts to

minorities, now meets federal standards. He said the turnaround

was the result of a minority enterprise plan implemented in 1992

by former Mayor Ed Austin.

"We are absolutely in compliance," Delaney said. "We are

looking at the plan, but only to make it more efficient."

Delaney was among a lineup of community leaders who spoke

Tuesday at a panel hearing on Jacksonville's racial climate.

While he said the city was improving, a number of

African-American civic leaders said the city had made little or

no progress.

The hearing followed up a 1992 report, formally released in

March, that said the city was the most racially divided of five

Florida cities the panel visited.

Black business owners had complained in 1992 that they were

excluded from competing for city contracts. A 1990 study funded

by the city showed that minorities had received less than 2

percent of the contracts awarded by the city, Duval County

School Board and some independent authorities. Duval County's

population is about 27 percent non-white.

During the 1980s, the city passed legislation to set aside

specific percentages of government contracts for minorityand

female-owned businesses.

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