This week's Martin column describes a $421,200 subcontract that a politically connected consultant, Gayle Holliday, received after the City of Kansas City, Missouri, reached an agreement with an Arizona company to install red-light cameras.
Holliday, who is African-American, represents the lone "minority business enterprise" (MBE) that the camera company, American Traffic Solutions, says it intends to use in the course of executing its contract. Through July, Holliday had been paid a mere $8,512.50, according to the city.
The arrangement raises questions. Why did the city approve a plan to use women and minorities that sets aside 13 percent of the value of the contract for a consultant whose expertise is of questionable relevance? And why, 14 months later, had she received only 2 percent of the money?
I complain in the column that city officials did not respond to requests for comment. In fact, Phillip Yelder, the city's director of Human Relations, the department which oversees minority contracting, did respond. But his e-mail arrived after my deadline.
In the e-mail, Yelder does not explain why Holliday is in line to receive $421,200, other than to say she is certified by the city to perform the work -- public relations -- described in the utilization plan.
Yelder goes on to note that the prime contractor, American Traffic Solutions, has received only $160,000 from the city. The city pays the company fees based partly on the number of red-light runners caught. (So much for the cameras being all about safety, a story the City Council spun when it reached the deal with American Traffic Solutions last year.)
The contract lasts five years, giving American Traffic Solutions "ample time," in Yelder's words, to meet the goals for using businesses owned by minorities and women. Yelder explains that prime contractors are required to show they are making efforts to use minority and women businesses "to the fullest extent."
Yelder then notes that American Traffic Solutions is exceeding the goal for hiring businesses owned by women. Through July, Mark One Electric Co. (Rosana Privitera Biondo, president) had been paid $501,385 -- well in excess of the project's 8 percent goal for woman business enterprises, or WBEs. (The MBE goal is 13 percent.)
That Yelder would draw attention to the overshoot of the WBE target jibes with a point I make in my column: Mark One Electric, whose status as a WBE is dubious, was always the means by which the red-light camera deal was going to achieve "diversity."