In August, the city's largest general contractor, J.E. Dunn, agreed to find $1.1 million worth of work for businesses owned by women and minorities on its (almost finished) downtown headquarters. The money amounted to tacit admission of a longstanding practice in the city's construction industry: hiring minority "front companies" to meet affirmative-action goals on taxpayer-funded projects, even though most of the real money — and, more important, the real work — too often stayed with white companies. (It was also a small price for J.E. Dunn to pay, given the millions in promised work that minorities have lost out on over the decades.) Credit for exposing the practice and keeping the pressure on goes to Bill Torres, Armando Diaz, Gabe Perez and their organization of Hispanic contractors, who filed a lawsuit against J.E. Dunn, H&R Block and the city in 2005, alleging that Dunn had over-reported $11.5 million in minority participation on Block's downtown headquarters. They lost the lawsuit but brought plenty of irrefutable evidence to the table. Four years later, construction companies know they're being watched — and City Hall knows it has to do a better job of watching. Do we expect the sleazy practice to end? No. But thanks to Torres and his group's tenacity, the city feels a little cleaner.