MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee’s NAACP is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into the way the City of Milwaukee awards contracts to minority firms, and has filed a complaint with the federal government.
One of the projects in question is Westlawn Housing, near 60th and Silver Spring.
The NAACP and MICAH, a group that supports the complaint, says “Phase One” of the construction project was awarded to a firm outside Milwaukee County, with no minority ownership.
“The City of Milwaukee discriminates on the basis of race and national origin in contracting and procurement. The city fails to comply with federal laws and regulations designed to show equality and opportunity,” Milwaukee NAACP President James Hall said.
The NAACP is accusing the City of Milwaukee of discriminating against minority and women contractors, violating civil rights laws, even though the city receives federal funds for the projects.
The NAACP says it brought up this issue a year ago, asking for a community-based audit of the city’s hiring of contractors.
“The city essentially blew us off and did not respond. The numbers and disparities here have gone on too long, and is not acceptable, and that’s why we filed this complaint,” Hall said.
“We are tired of having our rights being ignored or legislated away. The City of Milwaukee, the County of Milwaukee all have a responsibility to the people — not just some of the people, all of the people,” Ruben Hopkins with the Black Chamber of Commerce said.
Less than three percent of the City of Milwaukee’s construction spending went to African-American owned businesses, and the NAACP says that leads to high minority unemployment.
The NAACP said it hopes “Phase Two” of the Westlawn project that is expected to be awarded by the end of the year will include minority contractors.
The U.S. Department of Justice has not yet determined whether it will investigate Milwaukee contracting.
Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines’ Office said it’s early and they haven’t seen the complaint at this time. They said since it’s a legal issue, it would be in the hands of the city attorney.