ST. LOUIS — The federal government has agreed to investigate whether the Missouri Department of Transportation is sufficiently involving minority-owned businesses in projects that use federal stimulus dollars.
"It is important that the African-American community is involved in the monies that come into our cities," she said. "We're a part of society, the economic growth of our communities."
The NAACP accuses MoDOT of not following federal guidelines that require the recipients of stimulus funds to "make vigorous efforts" to maximize the involvement of minority and women-owned businesses.
The NAACP maintains the department has awarded just 1 percent of stimulus contracts, and 16 out of 183 subcontracts, to minority contractors.
"That was a red flag to us that something was wrong," Ratliff said.
Lester Woods, external civil rights officer for MoDOT, said the NAACP's numbers are probably "an accurate reflection of the tracking up to that point."
He said the department welcomes the scrutiny of the federal inquiry, but that it is doing "what it can to expend the stimulus funds and have diversity within our work force."
He said MoDOT has posted information on its Web site so that any business owner can learn about contracting opportunities. Also, Woods pointed out that most of the stimulus projects contracted so far have been in rural areas, which has fewer minority contractors.