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In a letter to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, 20 civil rights groups say they will take legal action against the state alleging discrimination in contracting.
The groups say three reports on diversity in contracting show systemic discrimination against people of color. And they criticize the governor for failing to deal with the problem. Here's the letter in full:
The Honorable Governor Jay Inslee
Office of the Governor , State of Washington
RE: WASHINGTON STATE HISTORY OF DISCRIMINATION IN PUBLIC CONTRACTING – WILLFUL VIOLATION OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 – TITLE VI
Dear Governor Inslee,
We, a coalition of community organizations, that work diligently to advance the cause and concern of people of color, both in jobs and business opportunities, write to you today in protest of the decades of discriminatory practices in Washington state public contracting. This discrimination has been tracked and monitored by state agencies and has gone unchecked since the passage of Washington State Initiative 200 (1998 RCW 49.60.400).
In 2012, our communities of color overwhelmingly gave support towards your election as the 23rd Governor of Washington State. This support, as communicated to us by you, was based on a belief and understanding that you were committed to fair and equitable prosperity for all Washingtonians. However, mid-term in your Governance, the Washington State Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises reports that all state agency purchasing combined with all ethnic certified minority businesses in our state are less than 0.5 percent in overall state procurement participation.
Governor Inslee, nearly 100 percent of Washington state agencies receive some form of federal funds and as a federal fund recipient they are legally obligated by federal law to mitigate discrimination in public contracting when inequity is found through a disparity study. The Washington State Attorney General’s office is aware that such legal proof of disparity has been available since 2012.
Washington state now has three federally compliant disparity studies that have been released since you took office: the statewide Washington State Department of Transportation DBE Program Disparity Study released to the public in 2013, the regional Sound Transit Disparity Study released in 2013, and the regional Port of Seattle Disparity Study released in 2014.
All three studies undeniably show that there are large economic disparities with communities of color in our state. Specifically Native American, African American, Asian-Pacific American and Hispanic owned businesses suffer from discriminatory state procurement practices. Case law examples of federal recipients who have been found guilty of Title VI violations can be found in the U.S. Department of Justice Title VI Legal Manual.
At this time, with no apparent viable options to correct the wrongs perpetrated against our community, we as a coalition will be moving forward with an organized effort to file dozens, if not hundreds, of discrimination complaints against the state. This organized strategy will be implemented over the next 12 months and will include filing those Title VI complaints to all federal agencies that provide direct federal contracts, federal loans, and/or federal grants to Washington state recipients, no matter how large or small the agency or state institution.
To understand the potential financial gravity of this action to our state please see www.openthebooks.com. This national organization is aware of our plan and our plight; as such they have offered full support in tracking all the data needed to zero-in on each agency receiving federal funds.
In closing, this is a travesty, both the documented discrimination and the lengths that our communities must go to achieve equity in publicly funded procurement opportunities in our state. To be clear, we will not stop in our demand until this economic discrimination in Washington State is finally abolished.
Governor Inslee, we believe you understand that equality does not necessarily ensure equity and that unlawful economic discrimination is part of the cause of many ailments in our communities. We trust that you will take action, and as such create a milestone that our communities will celebrate with you in 2016.
Sincerely, Hayward Evans , President of the Washington State African American Political Action Committee
On behalf of a Washington State Civil Rights Coalition of twenty Civil Rights Leaders, Clergy Leaders, and Minority Business Advocates.
WASHINGTON STATE CIVIL RIGHTS COALITION
Hayward Evans Washington State African American Political Action Committee, President
Eddie Rye, Jr Community Coalition for Contracts and Jobs (CCCJ), Co-Convener
R. C. Armstead National Association of Minority Contractors (NAMC) – Washington State Chapter, President
Lyle Quasim Washington Black Collective – Tacoma/Pierce County, Co-Chair
Reverend Carl Livingston Washington Christian Leadership Coalition, Economic Development Chair
Reverend Dr. Gregory Christopher president, Tacoma, Wa National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Reverend Lawrence R. Willis, president, United Black Christian Clergy of Washington State,
Reverend Dr. Robert L. Jeffrey, Founder, Black Dollar Days Task Force
Estela Ortega El Centro de la Raza, Executive Director
Toshiko Hasegawa Seattle Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Chair, Civil Rights Committee
Alfredo Medina Veterans Advocate, Director
Charlie James Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation and MLK Memorial, Co-Founder
Doug Chin Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA)
Gerald Hankerson, president, Seattle/King County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and State Chapters President (WA, AK, and OR),
Greg Taylor Renton, WA City Councilman
Verlene Jones A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) – Seattle, WA Chapter, Director