Investigation: No evidence KYTC discriminated against minority firms

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A federal investigation found no evidence to support a former Kentucky Transportation Cabinet employee’s claims that the agency discriminated against minority businesses, according to documents filed in a lawsuit.

At issue was a complaint by Reed Hampton, who retired in 2014 from the cabinet’s civil rights office and alleged that Kentucky officials treated “older, African-American firms” differently than other companies that sought certification in a minority contracting program.

The “disadvantaged business enterprise,” or DBE, program aids Kentucky in meeting goals for minority- and women-owned companies on transportation projects that receive federal funds.

Hampton had identified five companies whose certification he contended had been affected. In its investigation, a federal civil rights specialist analyzed the records of those firms and studied two years’ worth of DBE records before concluding there was no “disparate impact” on black companies in the certification process.

“In fact, the data analysis showed that African-American owned applicants were certified at a higher rate than their white counterparts,” a Federal Highway Administration official wrote in June 1, 2015 memo. 

The federal review found that black-owned businesses were terminated from or chose to leave Kentucky’s DBE program at a higher rate than white companies, but it did not review the details of every case and noted that “such cases could involve applicant-initiated actions or an applicant’s failure to cooperate.”

The investigation’s summary was made public in October in a lawsuit that alleges Kentucky officials conspired to keep Louisville-based Mathis & Sons from getting a qualification needed to work on the Ohio River Bridges Project. The suit is pending in U.S. District Court in Louisville.

Hampton also gave examples to the Transportation Cabinet of alleged discrimination in the DBE program, according to the lawsuit and documents obtained under Kentucky’s open records law.

Two of the firms Hampton mentioned in an August 2013 complaint later had their DBE certification revoked by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

In February 2014, the cabinet determined that the Judy Harp, president of the Judy C. Harp Co. of Frankfort, did not control the business, but instead did “solely administrative” work. State officials also removed John Bays Inc., of Greenup, Ky., from the program that same year after finding that Alice Bays, its president, could not prove she had a controlling stake in the company.

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