BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – The president of a local NAACP chapter is making strong allegations against at the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners.
Brunswick County NAACP President Bernest Hewett claims the board is recruiting contractors based on race. He told WECT.com that minority contractors are missing out on jobs because the board is picking and choosing which contractors they want on the job. He said very few are minorities.
"I do feel like it's racial," said Hewett.
Hewett addressed commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night and said that this has been an issue for years.
He claims minority contractors are not being given the chance to bid on projects because bids are running in non-minority newspapers.
Hewett said without everyone in the community knowing about projects they can't bid. Therefore, they can't be considered for jobs.
Hewett wants commissioners to run bids in a paper like the Wilmington Journal because it circulates in more communities.
"This would make a difference in getting bids," he said when talking about the Wilmington Journal. "Now the next difference has to be in them. They have to have it in their heart to do the right thing. If you have it in your heart to do the right things, then you won't have to argue over and over again about these things."
WECT.com reached out to officials in Brunswick County to see if the county is awarding more bids to non-minority contractors.
According the county attorney Huey Marshall, the county does not classify bids and projects by race or gender. Marshall said the files are public record and that anyone could come and look at each one individually to determine which ones are minorities and which ones are not.
According to county manager Marty Lawing, the county aims to give 5% of its projects to minorities. However, by law, they are not required to do so.
Lawing also said the county does not have anyone assigned to keep track of which contractors are minorities and which ones are not. He also mentioned that contractors often hire subcontractors. Lawing said it would take a lot of time to research the number of minorities.
The county's policy is to examine prices and qualifications of a contractor to determine which one gets the project. Typically, they aim to go with the lowest bid, but if a contractor is not qualified to do the job they will choose another one.
Lawing also said running bids in the local paper is a formality. He said most contractors who are looking for work know where to look for bids and projects.
He also said the industry is very competitive and that much of the responsibility of finding work falls on the contractor.
According to Marshall, the county has not been named in any lawsuits regarding discrimination.
Both Lawing and Marshall agreed it would be unfair to award a project to a minority just because they are a minority. They said the best contractor for the job is ultimately awarded the work.
Brunswick County Commissioner Marty Cooke agreed and said he does not know of any "agenda" to not award work to minorities in the county.
"Each situation is different," said Cooke. "We always pick the best person qualified for the job."
Hewett said he will continue his fight for taxpayers in the county.
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