Suit filed against Shelby County MWBE program

TN News - Published Jan 30, 2019

The Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Memphis recently filed suit against Shelby County, seeking to halt the implementation of the county's Minority- and Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) program.

The lawsuit argues that program "establishes an un-level playing field for nonMWBE contractors", and alleges that a member of the MCA in Memphis lost a subcontracting bid with Shelby County due to her race (the business owner in question being white) to a minority-owned business, despite the former business making a bid that was $400,000 lower than the winning bid.

The lawsuit further calls the disparity study of 2016 which formed the impetus for the formation of the M/WBE program "fatally flawed," due to an alleged "unreliable sampling" among other objections, including that the disparity study in question supposedly "fails to explore race neutral reasons as to alleged disparities in revenues between minorities and non-minorities." The lawsuit further argues that the M/WBE program violates the 14th Amendment.

In addition to calling for the M/WBE program to be disbanded and enjoined from operating, the lawsuit also demands damages of not less than $500,000 for White Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors, the individual plaintiff allegedly making the lower bid with Shelby County on the relevant project.

A report of Shelby County's spending from January 2018 to June 2018 found that approximately two percent of county purchasing dollars went to minority-owned businesses, and none went to woman-owned businesses. During the period from July 2018 to September 2018, 1 percent of purchasing dollars went to minority-owned businesses and none went to woman-owned businesses. Nearly half of all businesses in Shelby County are black- or African-American-owned.

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