Friday, June 16, 2000

Audit faults state on set-asides

Equal employment opportunity lapses alleged

By Travis Mayo
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A massive audit of Kentucky government has stirred questions about the state's equal employment opportunity and set-aside practices.

        Kentucky Auditor Ed Hatchett said Thursday that the annual audit, released May 18, showed the state's Finance and Administration Cabinet failed to enforce equal employment opportunity contract laws and ignored set-asides for small businesses and small minority businesses.

        Both relate to the contracting of state construction projects, which is the responsibility of the cabinet.

        “Our government has to be committed to the principle that we will treat all people fairly when it comes to our state's commerce,” said Mr. Hatchett, who was in Northern Kentucky for the state bar association's convention.

        “It's a pretty serious matter for the state to habitually ignore the set-asides.”

        Some of the findings conclude that the Cabinet:

        • Did not require contractors to document their attempts to hire minorities. State law requires the effort.

        • Accepted incomplete minority employment records.

        • Did not penalize contractors who did not comply with the EEO rules.

        • Did not ensure that the office of equal employment opportunity conducted site visits for state construction projects.

        The audit has been sent to a federal agency, Mr. Hatchett said, adding that since the Cabinet receives federal funds, the miscues could bring federal sanctions. A federal response might not come for as long as six months.

        Chris Kellogg, a spokesperson for the Cabinet, said Cabinet officials think that a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision, in City of Richmond vs. J.A. Croson and Co.,means that state-mandated set-asides are not legal.

        Ms. Kellogg said that doesn't mean that the Cabinet does not encourage mi nority inclusion.

        “We call it to the contractor's attention what we expect them to do,” she said.

        The audit of Kentucky's executive branch and state agencies was expanded for 1999. Although the final 500-page report was completed last month, Mr. Hatchett said he is just beginning to emphasize specific findings.


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