St. Louis officials granted minority status to a mechanical
contracting company that may not qualify for such status.
The company, Climate Engineering Corp., makes too much money
and is not really run by blacks, some local minority contractors
Those contractors say they are worried that Climate will take a
large chunk out of the 25 percent of city contracts set aside for
companies with a minority status.
Climate's minority status rests largely upon the company being
owned and managed by Harold Antoine Sr., a black man who bought 51
percent last year. Antoine is the longtime head of the Human
Development Corp., a nonprofit agency that handles about $13
million a year in federal funds to administer Head Start and other
anti-poverty programs. His son is a special assistant to Mayor
Freeman Bosley Jr., leading some to assert that the elder Antoine
got favorable treatment from Bosley.
City officials denied the allegations. Bosley was unavailable
Eric Vickers, an attorney representing local minority
contractors, said: "They're corrupting the minority-business
standards to reward friends and do favors. What is happening is
that a front company is being formed, with connections to the
mayor's office. That excludes legitimate minority businesses."
Antoine said that he runs the company and that it deserves
minority status. "We don't get business because we're black, and we
don't get business because of my son."
Climate got the minority status in November, helping the
company win a $115,000 heating and cooling contract at the Kiel
Center that month.
Climate was owned by whites from its founding in 1952 until
Jan. 1, 1993, when Antoine and two white employees bought it.
The city's St. Louis Development Corp. gave Climate the
minority status despite officials' concerns that Antoine may not
oversee day-to-day operations and that the company had more than $7
million in gross receipts over the last three years. Federal
guidelines call for minority owners to oversee the daily operations
and for annual gross receipts of not more than $7 million over a
Climate, a 100-employee company, was touted last year by
Contracting Business, a trade journal, as a $10-million-a-year
"It's big fish eating the little fish," said Eddie Hasan, head
of MoKan, a local group of minority-owned contracting companies.
"If you grant certification to big companies, then what we've got
is a welfare program for businesses, and that shouldn't be the
Climate's minority-certification effort goes back to the tenure
of Brian Murphy, appointed by former Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr.
to manage the city's minority contracting. Bosley fired Murphy in
Murphy said Monday that he had concerns last year, when the
company first asked for minority status. …