Four government agencies in Orange County will spend $900,000 with a consultant to study whether or not those agencies are discriminating against minorities in their hiring practices, despite a massive effort to hire minority contractors.
Orange County, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, the Orange County School Board, and the City of Orlando are each paying $225,000 for the study. It's being done, because federal law requires it in order to receive federal money. Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards does not like the circular logic of being forced into the study just to prove a program is worthy.
"Under the federal law, you cannot distinguish a class of people without justification for doing it, so if you are going to provide preferential treatment for someone, you have to have a basis to do that."
Each of the four government agencies goes to great lengths to provide preferential treatment to women and minority-owned businesses already and has done so for years. Orange County Business Development Manager Errick Young says he plans to use this study to see if there are any gaps in the county's program of reaching out to minority owned businesses.
"We feel like we've done a pretty good job, but then there is a possibility that we have not addressed some areas in the population. Keep in mind, it changes every day."
The airport plans to use the study as a development tool as well. The Orange County School Board has to pay, despite the fact that they won an award for their minority purchasing program. The City of Orlando will pay despite having two offices for minority hiring, including it's much lauded Blueprint Office which tries to get work for minority contractors on the venues projects. Commissioner Ted Edwards called the study frustrating, and believes it is a waste of tax dollars.
"This study is to demonstrate whether or not there is continuing discrimination, and whether we should continue these programs."
When asked if there is any continuing discrimination against contractors, Commissioner Edwards replied with a laugh, "That's the purpose of the study. It's a catch-22!"
The consultant will look at Orange County's contracts over the past five years, a task Errick Young told us was far too demanding to complete in house by County staff.