HOUSTON’S AFFIRMATIVE ACTION DIRECTOR TELLS HER SIDE OF THE STORY!

LAWS: GREEN AND I HAVEN’T TALKED AND MANY OF THE COMPLAINTS ARE COMING FROM DISGRUNTLED BUSINESSES!

Over the last two weeks the Insite has reported on how Houston City Councilman Ronald Green has been extremely unhappy with the job done by a fellow city official. Green says it’s time for Affirmative Action Director Velma Laws to resign. He claims Laws has not done a good job making sure minorities and women are getting their share of contracts from the city of Houston.

Laws has been the Affirmative Action director with the city of Houston since 2003. She says there is still a great need for the program. But she wanted to make sure the public realizes she’s doing her job. That lead to an interview with the Insite by phone on Friday. I wanted to get her side of the story.

In the brief interview Laws said, “most of our efforts here are geared towards providing opportunities for minority and women owned businesses.” She said she had the numbers to prove just how vigilant her office has been in ensuring there is inclusion here in Houston.

According to data provided to the Insite, the office of Affirmative Action has awarded more than 18% of the city’s contracts to certified minority and women owned businesses. That would translate to $171 million dollars in business for this fiscal year. That’s out of $947 million the city has spent on contractors overall.

The question remains is Laws doing enough to ensure minority inclusion? I put that question to her. I also asked why Councilman Green and some others believe she wasn’t doing enough for women and minorities. She pointed to disgruntled applicants who have tried to do business with the city.

Her response verbatim…

The Insite: Why are some saying you’re not doing enough to help minority and women owned businesses?
Laws: The companies that have had challenges on their initial shots of getting certified.
The Insite: Those who are unhappy with the process are complaining to council members?
Laws: That’s what council members say.
The Insite: Have you had a chance to work out your differences with Councilman Green?
Laws: We haven’t had a chance to speak but I listen to the information that is debated at the council table and I look at it as the opportunity for me to shed some light and provide some facts.

Laws went on to say those who have problems with the process have a right to appeal her department’s decision. She said she even pushed for the city’s Contract Compliance Commission. It’s an independent body for those businesses who have been rejected. They can go before the group and get a second look.

In the meantime, Laws says she has no plans on leaving the department. But she made it clear she believes in transparency and for those who have concerns there’s an appeals process. Also, her door is always open!

Facts:

* 1,449 certified minority and women owned firms able to do business with the COH – up 20% since fiscal 2005
* 550 minority and women owned firms with city contracts – up 27% from fiscal, 2005
* $171 million in city contracts awarded to minority and women owned business – 18.1% of the total city contracts

Source: City of Houston Affirmative Action and Contract Compliance