Controller Lamb critical of Ravenstahl over deals

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Inadequate tracking of minority and female participation in city contracting shows Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's lack of commitment to an important issue, city Controller Michael Lamb said Thursday in releasing an audit that the mayor's office denounced as a political potshot.

A city commission compiles reports with contract amounts and projected participation by minority- and women-owned businesses. But it doesn't follow up to see whether minority- and women-owned firms actually did the work and got paid for it, said Mr. Lamb, a possible mayoral challenger next year.

As a result, Mr. Lamb said, it's unclear whether the city's goals -- at least 18 percent participation by minority-owned firms and 7 percent participation by female-owned firms in large projects -- are being met. The commission also makes little effort to visit job sites or otherwise enforce the participation goals, he said.

Mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said Mr. Ravenstahl has directed the commission's manager, Phillipe Petite, to improve his tracking of contracts. She defended the mayor's overall commitment to diversity, noting that the city has held workshops to encourage small businesses' participation in contracts and is preparing to field the most diverse class of police candidates in more than a decade.

In all last year, the commission reported about 17.6 percent participation by minority-owned businesses and about 16.3 percent participation by women-owned businesses in nearly $205 million of city and authority contracts. Because they're projections, Mr. Lamb said, the figures present "a false picture of how Pittsburgh is doing when it comes to fairly awarding contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses."

After projects are awarded, Mr. Lamb said, their scope may increase or decrease, affecting the extent to which minority- and female-owned firms participate. In some cases, he said, firms tentatively awarded a share of a project may end up getting nothing at all.

Mr. Petite said the picture is better than the audit shows. For example, he said his office was not informed of demolition work awarded to minority contractors through the Bureau of Building Inspection.

City Councilman Ricky Burgess has called for creation of a Department of Equal Opportunity as part of an effort to improve contracting opportunities.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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