Following a passionate speech by Schenectady City Councilman Marion Porterfield, the council decided Monday to take a closer look at minority hiring.
The city requires that every contractor hire a minority-owned business to do some of the work on each project. In practice, this has not always happened.
“If they didn’t come out to plow, there would be consequences,” Porterfield said in her speech. “It appears this is not the situation when it comes to hiring.”
She said there should be “consequences” if a contractor violates any part of its contract with the city.
And her colleagues agreed.
“This has been going on and on for a long time,” said Councilman Vince Riggi. “We have to look hard at this whole issue.”
He cited the recent discovery by the state that the Erie Boulevard project fell well under its minority hiring requirement this year. The contractor has already signed contracts with minority-owned businesses to meet the requirement next year, but Riggi said the problem ought to have been noticed months ago.
“A whole year went by,” he said. “That’s something that shouldn’t happen.”
In their defense, state officials said that they didn’t notify the city of the problem until the contractor finished 20 percent of the project, which happened last month.
Councilwoman Margaret King said she would put the issue on the agenda for discussion at Monday’s council committees meeting.
“I also am concerned,” she said. “We will continue this conversation.”
The discussion began with a vote on whether to award a plowing bid to Carver Construction. Porterfield noted that Carver had been punished years ago for not meeting its minority hiring requirement, and asked whether the company had improved when it was hired for projects this year.
Affirmative Action Director Miriam Cajuste said the company had improved, but did not give Porterfield specific numbers before Monday’s vote.
Porterfield said “anecdotal” information wasn’t enough.
“Saying we were better than last year is not acceptable,” she added. “I can’t approve this without information.”
She voted no.
Riggi and King voted for the contract, but said it was only because they were worried about snow falling before they could put out the contract for another bid.
“I’m between a rock and a hard place,” Riggi said. “I know snow is almost upon us.”
After voting yes, he added that he would never vote affirmatively again if any council member’s questions on the issue had not been answered.
“It’s only fair we get our questions answered,” he said.
Councilman Carl Erikson added that he was disappointed that other companies hadn’t bid on the contract.
“There are other companies out there that can do this kind of work,” he said, “I think we should contact them and ask them, ‘Why aren’t they bidding on this?’ ”