The Monroe City School Board spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in purchases each year, but historically made little effort to insure racial minorities, women and the disadvantaged get a share. However, Tuesday night the board took what its president described as a small step toward changing that practice.
In a unanimous, mostly telephone vote, the board approved a new procurement policy that sets aside up to 10 percent of its purchases for disadvantaged business enterprises.
School Board President Betty Cooper said the new policy is not perfect but is a step in the right direction.
The new policy generally tracks state law and sets aside up to 10% of its purchases for minority vendors and guarantees ten percent of the set aside for women.
Minorities who want to share in the ten percent pool have to present the system with the following: Resumes of owners and top managers. 2. Copies of business licenses and permits. 3. Other pertinent records, such as professional licenses and certificates of insurance.
Businesses owned by white-male owned businesses don’t need to register to be qualified for general procurements.
Procurements generally include: rental equipment, purchases of supplies, legal services, and other vendor-provided equipment.
The new policy has no penalties if not followed and does not detail reporting procedures.
Cooper said loose ends will be addressed in future meetings of the board, but the new policy is a step in the right direction.
In the ’80s the school board was embroiled in controversy over using minority vendors. The issue was pushed by then Board member Van Brass who challenged the fact that the board refused to use any minority vendors.
Brass pushed for the replacement of the district’s Business Manager Jimmy Plaisance since he made most of the procurement calls. It failed when Board President Henrietta George changed her vote.
Brass continued to question, on a monthly basis, the amount the board spent with minority vendors, which continued to be nearly zero. It scrambled to find minority vendors to answer Brass’ persistent question.
Brass then pushed for the hiring of Carnell Johnson as head of the district’s Transportation Department
Johnson began making purchases of auto supplies and parts from Rankins Auto Parts to meet Brass’ self imposed monthly quota.
Shortly after the board named the Free Press as its Official Journal which changed the picture.
Tuesday’s action made the ten percent set aside a part of board policy.