Contractors sue state over secret minority biz goals

The Associated General Contractors of New York State has filed suit against five state agencies, seeking the release of documents that show how the offices set goals for participation by minority- and women-owned businesses in assorted state contracts.

The action follows 75 separate attempts by the trade group to obtain the data through the Freedom of Information Law, which it said were all ignored or denied. The agencies include the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Transportation, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Dormitory Authority and the New York State Insurance Fund.

The contractors group said it is seeking the information because state agencies appear to have established an arbitrary contract requirement of 30 percent participation by minority and women-run firms, generally referred to as MWBE. If true, the requirement would appear to run afoul of the laws governing the contract program, which order government agencies to consider the availability of local qualified minority firms and other factors.

“Given the high unlikelihood that … individual and highly varied contracts throughout the state would result time and time again in the determination of the same 30 percent goal, compliance is very much in doubt,” the group wrote in its complaint.

The 30 percent quota appears to be an effort by state workers to meet a goal announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo three years ago, which has “no basis in law,” the group pointed out.

“Such a goal also is unrepresentative of the actual capacity of MWBE firms across the state.”

The group said it is actively partnering with minority business advocates and others “to not only expand opportunity for certified firms, but much more broadly to help create opportunities for all individuals to connect with rewarding careers in the construction industry, which in every region of New York faces workforce shortages.”

AGC NYS’ suit, called an Article 78 filing, may be viewed here.