City’s Equal Opportunity report raises questions

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Even as Pittsburgh Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle and other Black community leaders like Rashad Byrdsong and Carl Redwood Jr. are working to increase contracting and employment opportunities for African-Americans, discrepancies in the Equal Opportunity Review Commission’s 2011 report appears to show, “The city and its authorities exceeded the established MBE/WBE participation goals.”

PhilipPetite
PHIL PETITE

But using this report as an indicator of actual participation would be erroneous.

“The information in the report is not accurate,” said Architect Howard Graves. “At least as far as I am concerned.”

According to the report, Graves, the Black architect who designed Freedom Corner, received a $2 million contract from the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh on Sept. 21 for an architectural and engineering services task order and then farmed out $260,000 of that to companies here, in New York and in Maryland. Graves never received a $2 million contract nor has he worked with the listed subcontractors.

“We got nothing near that,” said Graves. “My business manager tells me that we got about $5,800 from them last year. I’d love to have a $2 million contract, but no, that’s not correct.”

Similarly, Homewood architect Marvin Miller is listed as receiving $1.86 million for a subcontract from a $2 million task order contract issued to Fukui Architects.

“I’ve never even talked to anyone from Fukui,” said Miller. “I’m working with Loftus Engineers for the authority on some scattered-site housing rehabs, but I only got about $5,000 for that last year and another $9,000 so far this year. They need to correct that because it’s false.”

The report also lists landscape architect Kenny Ross as having a $46,000 subcontract to deliver portable toilets for an Urban Redevelopment Authority project.

“I don’t do toilets,” he said. “I don’t know anything about that.”

A. Fulton Meachem, HACP executive director said the information in the review commission report is not what the authority submitted. A copy of the Fukui submission lists “0 dollars.”

Review Commission office Manager Phil Petite said though there were some typos and errors in cutting-and-pasting some names due to multiple contract submissions, he put what was submitted into the report. Why the discrepancy?

“This just shows the plans that were submitted,” said Petite. “It’s a wish list. It doesn’t show utilization. The authorities themselves are responsible for reporting that.”

Petite said his office doesn’t compile a report on actual M/WBE results. Asked if any office did, he said no. “There is no comprehensive report of utilization by the city and its authorities,” he said. “We probably should, so we can reconcile these reports.”

But what about instances like the $395,000 URA subcontract for electrical work on the Thelma Lovette YMCA listing Emerald Electric as the recipient? Emerald was a joint venture partner with Sargent Electric. Sargent is not listed in the report at all.

Petite said he only listed the MBE subcontractor because that’s the way he received the plan from the URA. Authority Director of Diversity Affairs & Community Outreach Chuck Powell disputes that.

“My compliance people send quarterly reports to Phil so he can see who got paid,” said Powell.

City controller Michael Lamb, who is currently auditing the EORC as part of his regular rotation of departmental audits, said he is aware of inconsistencies in the report and plans to find out what is real and what is not. City Councilman Rev. Rickey Burgess, who chairs the Housing Authority Board, has requested all the annual reports for the last five years. He’s out of town, so did not return the Courier’s call.

“In some cases this report has grossly overstated the performance of MBE contracts. We’re going to get to the bottom of it,” said Lamb. “This report should show results, not potential.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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