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
"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
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. …