04 18 2014
  10:14 am  

The Oregon Department of Transportation has been stung by a landmark ruling by the Federal Highway Administration Office of Civil Rights that found cheating on minority contracting numbers at a Highway 217 construction project last year.

The three-part ruling, dated Aug. 29, says that Salt & Pepper Construction Company, Inc., is not really a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) company despite the fact that it was certified as one by the state Office of Minority, Women and Emerging Small Business; that Salt & Pepper colluded with the project's prime contractor, Emery & Sons, and a non-DBE company called Bud Construction LLC to fake minority participation in the highway project; and that ODOT "failed to exercise effective DBE program oversight" in allowing the companies to profit from federal dollars intended for disadvantaged businesses.

The FHA is demanding that ODOT evaluate the implementation of its DBE program and submit a plan of corrective action by Oct. 31 of this year; also ODOT must adjust DBE accounting to "reflect the Salt & Pepper's performance as a DBE on the project and in the overall program;" ODOT must require the OMWESB office to remove Salt & Pepper from its rolls of certified DBE companies; and finally, ODOT must submit its findings to further review by the FHA.

Melvin Oden-Orr

"It's a milestone," said the National Association for Minority Contracting –Oregon Executive Director Melvin Oden-Orr. "The milestone we hope it is, is one that says to ODOT that compliance is important or fraud will run rampant."

ODOT Spokesman Patrick Cooney says that the bureau plans to follow through with the FHA's findings and intends to take steps to correct the problem.

"This is not how this program's supposed to go," Cooney said. "We are in the process of examining step-by-step what happened and why it happened."

He said he couldn't speak to specifics because ODOT itself does not yet have all the information gathered by the federal administrators. "But we have until the end of October," Cooney said.

A spokesman for the FHA declined to name any penalties that might be levied against ODOT because, he said, every case is different, and, "We have no reason to believe that ODOT does not plan to follow through" with the findings, he said.

However he did say that, in general, any agency that fails to follow through with FHA findings faces financial penalties.

Oden-Orr says the penalties are enshrined in federal contracting regulations, and include loss of federal funds.

"Federal Highway should and could pull all the money they have given them – including the money spent on that project," Oden-Orr said.

Over the past decade consistent criticisms of ODOT's DBE operations led to a Disparity Study published in 2007, which found that specifically Black and Asian-American-owned firms were "substantially underutilized."

In response to its own study, ODOT established "Hard goals" for Black and Asian participation in its DBE programs; its 2011 update on the Disparity Study made three conclusions:

1) Re-instating selective hard goals helped increase construction work awarded to Asian Pacific American-owned businesses.

2) There is still substantial disparity in awarding construction work to African American- and Sub-continent Asian American-owned businesses.

3) There is substantial disparity in awarding A&E/professional services work for most groups: African American-, Hispanic American-, Sub-continent Asian American-, Native American-, and nonminority women-owned businesses.

"Overall, the findings show support for ODOT to use race conscious DBE goals in specific areas," the study said.

The issue of fraud in DBE certification is a bitter one for local minority contracting companies, who have fought city and state agencies for decades over what they say is the lack of real contract opportunities in public works projects because of open fraud by companies faking minority status.

What makes the FHA finding against ODOT even more interesting is that one of the fraudulently-accredited contractors revealed himself and his illegal activities during testimony at a Portland City Council meeting.

The company singled out by the FHA, Salt & Pepper Trucking, is this year celebrating its 40th year in business.

According to their website, Salt & Pepper is African American owned and a member of the Oregon Association on Minority Entrepreneurs.

Part of the complaint sent by NAMC-O to the FHA included video of a City Council meeting June 22, 2011, when the Council heard testimony on its Disparity Study.

The first testimony was by a man named Roy Weedman, owner of Bud Construction –not a certified DBE company — who describes how, as a white man, he has no access to contracts because he is "not Black or Asian."

Weedman goes on to describe how he has essentially done a significant amount of Salt & Pepper's work, including managing and supervising the trucking subcontract, as well as leasing his own trucks to Salt & Pepper to do the work.

Weedman talks about how contractors "have found a loophole" to falsely inflate their minority participation percentages specifically in trucking and flagging operations.

In its findings, the FHA said Salt & Pepper "did not manage and supervise the trucking operation for which it was responsible; did not provide at least one of its own trucks on the contract; and used a non-DBE to manage the entire trucking operation."

But the FHA also sketches out deliberately illegal behavior involving two other companies as well.

"Further, the facts support a finding that Emery & Sons, Bud Construction and Salt & Pepper contrived a relationship for the purpose of meeting the contract goal," the findings say. "As a result, ODOT inappropriately counted the value of the trucking services provided by DBE Salt & Pepper toward the DBE contract goal."

Documents show Salt & Pepper has for years been counted as a DBE in contracts with ODOT, the City of Portland, METRO, and TriMet.

It is the second time in recent weeks that NAMC-O has seen some response for official complaints it has filed.

Two weeks ago, the Oregon Secretary of State's Office released an audit of the OMWESB certification process that found the small staff overburdened, with inadequate resources and poor organization that has caused a backlog of DBE requests – even as Gov. John Kitzhaber has called for more companies to apply for certification.

The audit stopped well short of what NAMC-O called for in its request for the investigation, focusing not on DBE compliance issues, but rather on how certifications are handed out.

In one section of the audit, called "Process Needed to Ensure Completeness and Accuracy," what appears to be a significant oversight appears.

"For example, we found that one business certified as an ESB was later found ineligible," the audit says. However, the certification was kept open for several years prior to final closure without any explanation in the application file."

Salt & Pepper Trucking was one of 14 companies specifically named as potentially defrauding the certification process.

Secretary of State Kate Brown told The Skanner News that, despite NAMC-O's concerns about fraud in the system, the state OMWESB is doing a good job.

"They went and did some double-checking of work of the certification process, and it was their findings that the office of OMWESB did do appropriate double check or verification processes," she said. "This office is not just rubber-stamping. They are verifying the applications' eligibility."

While Brown said the audit's recommendations for way to tighten up their operations are only voluntary, she described a three-point plan her office has put in place to encourage compliance, including: follow-up audits; and meetings with bureau and agency heads as well as meetings with the Joint Committee on Legislative Audits and Information Management & Technology.

"I have no hammer – the only hammer I have is my bully pulpit," she said. "We really think that these three things with the joint legislative audits committee, meeting with agency directors or division heads, and the follow-up audits, that we are seeing greater compliance in terms of recommendations."

Commenting Guidelines

  • Keep it clean: Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language
  • No personal attacks: We reserve the right to remove offensive comments
  • Be truthful: Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything
  • Be nice: No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person
  • Help us: If you see an abusive post, let us know at info@theskanner.com
  • Keep to topic: We will remove irrelevant posts and spam
  • Share with us: We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts; the history behind an article

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • Portland News and Events: Trailblazers fans flash mob, Kshama Sawant in Portland for minimum wage campaign, teen party, Over-50s job help and more… Photo: Sawant joined hundreds of people in Seattle last month to march from Judkins Park to Seattle Central Community College to show their support for a $15 minimum wage for Seattle workers.   Flash Mob to Celebrate Portland Trailblazers Entrepreneur Andre Miller is organizing a flash mob to celebrate the Portland Trailblazers success this season. Portland entrepreneur Andre Miller is organizing a flash mob to celebrate the Portland Trailblazers success this season. The event will be filmed. The Blazers are 53-28 putting them second in the Northwest Division, and setting them up for a run at the post-season playoffs. Fans are invited to join the crowd, 3 p.m. Saturday April 19 at Lloyd Center Mall ice skating rink, and sing join upcoming artist Yung Jordan in singing his anthem, “Welcome to RipCity.”  Cheer, dance and be part of a video celebrating Portland’s beloved basketball heroes. And if you need some fan gear, Miller will be offering special discounts on his line of Blazer Gang apparel. Find it in the LloydCenter or online. Seattle City Councilor Kshama Sawant in Portland for $15 Wage Campaign Kshama Sawant, a socialist elected last year to the Seattle City Council, speaks in Portland, Thursday, April 24, 6:30 p.m., at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1624 NE Hancock St, Portland, on the 15 Now campaign to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Other speakers include Portland City Council candidate Nick Caleb and labor organizer and author, Ahjamu Umi. This event is a fundraiser for Kshama Sawant's campaign. Suggested donation is $15, but no one will be turned away. For more information on the campaign go to www.15now.org . STASHA Hosts Substance-Free Party for Middle-, High-Schoolers Strong Teens Against Substance Hazards and Abuse will hold a drug- and alcohol-free party late this month for ClarkCounty middle- and high-school students. STASHA is a peer educator program. Members are 12-19 and work to prevent substance abuse among youth and in the community. Some members have never used drugs or alcohol, others have experimented and still others have completed treatment and are now in recovery. The group is part of the Clark County Youth House within the Department of Community Services. The party is scheduled for 8-11 p.m. on Friday, April 25, at the MarshallCommunity Center, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd. Food is free. Bring a bathing suit and 25 cents for a locker if you want to swim. Other activities include basketball, volleyball, dancing with a live DJ and video and table games. For more information go to www.clark.wa.gov. Workforce Conferences Target 50-and-Older Crowd PortlandCommunity College is hosting two conferences on employment and training aimed at the 50-and-older crowd. The half-day conferences titled, “Finding Work at 50 Plus: Yes You Can!” are set to go from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday, April 22, in Beaverton at the Willow Creek Center (241 S.W. Edgeway Dr.) and again on Thursday, April 24, at the Portland Metro Workforce Training Center (5600 N.E. 42nd Ave). The free conferences are for members of AARP who are age 50 or older. The purpose is to give information, offer networking opportunities and help create a “next steps plan” for AARP members on employment and training options targeted specifically for their age group. In addition to PCC, AARP and the Small Business Administration are co-sponsoring the events. The conferences, which are co-sponsored by AARP and the Small Business Administration, will feature workshops on how attendees can run their own business, learn more about solo entrepreneurship, take advantage of the hidden job market, re-careering, and discover specific tools and techniques on finding employment. Keynote speakers include Kevin Cahill with ECON Northwest and Malcolm Boswell from Oregon State Employment. Both will present data on the 50-plus workforce to show where the jobs are, employment trends and data on entrepreneurship. Panel speakers will talk about how they have re-created their lives. Organizations providing information at the conferences include PCC’s Small Business Development and CLIMB centers as well as the college’s Career Pathways, Community Education and Life by Design programs. Plus, SCORE, Mercy Corps, Small Business Administration, Worksystems Inc., Experience Works, Easter Seals of Oregon, AARP and Dress For Success will also be on hand. To register, call toll free at (877) 926-8300.        WSU Vancouver Hosts Discussion on Proposed Copper Mine Near Mt. St. Helens The WashingtonStateUniversityVancouverCenter for Social and Environmental Justice and the Gifford Pinchot Task Force will host author Bill Carter who will talk about a proposed copper mine near Mount St. Helens. The lecture will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 23 in the DengerinkAdministrationBuilding, Room 110. The event is free and open to the public. Carter wrote "Boom, Bust, Boom - A Story About Copper, the Metal that Runs the World." The book is an account of the presence of copper in our lives and its cost on health, the economy and the environment. Carter was poisoned by vegetables grown in his family garden, contaminated with invisible pollutants from a once prosperous copper mining industry. His experience sent him on an international discovery mission to learn more about what he describes as the most important metal in modern society. The Canadian company Ascot Resources Ltd. has begun exploratory drilling 12 miles from the crater of Mount St. Helens in the Green River watershed, which provides clean drinking water to Southwest Washington communities. For more information go to www.vancouver.wsu.edu. Congolese Project Slideshow Portland artist and printmaker Roger Peet recently returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he coordinated a project of conservation theater with Congolese scientists and artists. The project toured remote villages by bicycle. Peet presents images, music, video and stories from the project April 29, 7:30 p.m. at the Alleyway Bar, 2415 NE Alberta St. Peet wrote and directed several short skits, made elaborate masks, and documented the project through photography, video, and audio recording. The performances took place in seven villages near the proposed LomamiNational Park, in a region of high insecurity menaced by warlords, poachers, and renegade elements of Congo's national army. More about the project at www.lomamibandanas.tumblr.com/. Training to Help Chefs Keep the Flavor, Cut The Salt A free culinary training on strategies to enhance flavor and reduce sodium is to chefs from locally owned, independent restaurants in ClarkCounty, Tuesday April 29, 9 – 11 a.m. atClarkCollegeColumbiaTechCenter, 18700 SE Mill Plain Blvd., in the Cooking School Kitchen. The instructor is Chef Garrett Berdan, a registered dietitian who offers culinary workshops for professional cooks across the country. Garrett has been recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” and is past president of the Oregon Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Registration is required; please contact melissa.martin@clark.wa.gov or 360-397-8000 ext. 7291. Mount Hood Emergency Preparedness Expo May 2-3 The bi-annual Mount Hood Emergency Preparedness Expo will be held Friday-Saturday, May 2-3 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Boring at12300 S.E. 312th Ave. The event is free and open to the pubic. The expo, which will feature more than 60 workshops and 30 displays, will run from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, May 2, and from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 3. This community event, designed to help local residents prepare for a disaster, will feature a wide variety of workshops including first aid, fire safety, financial planning, food storage, firearm safety, organic gardening, bee keeping, and more. Visitors will receive free hands-on training and resources from local experts and professionals in emergency preparedness, disaster management, and self-reliance. Portland State University Geology Professor and widely known speaker, Dr. Scott Burns, will deliver a keynote address at 2:00 pm Saturday, May 3, about the scientific evidence of an impending major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, contact event chairperson Patti Paxson at 971-645-6847 or by email atpaxson2000@hotmail.com. The Rosewood Initiative Mother's Day Market The Rosewood Initiative Mother's Day Market will be on Saturday May 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. inside The Rosewood Initiative building located at16126 SE Stark Street, Portland. The event is free and open to the public allowing shoppers the opportunity to find the right gift for mom or spend some quality time together. If you're looking for an opportunity to support local artisans and try delicious food, The Rosewood Initiative Mother's Day Market is just the place. The Rosewood Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to making the Rosewood area a desirable place to live, work and play. For more information about The Rosewood Initiative or The Rosewood Initiative Mother's Day Market you can contact them on the web at rosewoodinitiative.org or call 503-208-2562. Commissioners seek applicants for Board of Equalization vacancies The Board of County Commissioners is seeking applicants to fill two seats on the Clark County Board of Equalization. One position is for a full-term board member, and one is for an alternate to serve on an on-call basis. Terms are for three years. The board provides an impartial citizen forum in which property owners can resolve issues of assessed valuation and exemptions. Members are paid $75 per day while attending meetings. Meetings usually are Tuesday through Thursday and scheduled during regular business hours, as needed. Applicants should have knowledge of real and personal property, Clark County, property appraisal techniques and property tax law. Experience or education in the building trades also is helpful. Applicants should submit a letter of interest and resume to Jennifer Clark, Board of County Commissioners, P.O. Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-5000 or email jennifer.clark@clark.wa.gov. Deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 7. To learn more, visit www.clark.wa.gov/board-of-equalization/index.html. For more Portland events check out The Skanner News community calendar
    Read More
  • 'City employees and managers questioned his qualifications because of his race and repeatedly complained about Mr. Graham’s decision to make diversity hiring a priority in OMF'  
    Read More
  • Seattle news and events: bus cuts, unclaimed cash, veterans job fair, Dream scholarships, bicycling fair, Waterfront vision and more....
    Read More
  • She was passionate about making a difference in her community  
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all


About Us

Breaking News

The Skanner TV

Turn the pages

QR Code

Your Health