49ers stadium leaders refute charges of racism

April 25, 2013 6:41:58 PM PDT
A coalition of civil rights groups and minority business interests are throwing a penalty flag on the 49ers' new football stadium. They say the city and the general contractors failed to hire any minority-owned construction firms for the job. Both sides are telling very different stories.

There are plenty of minority players on the field. There are lots of minority fans in the stands. But a local civil rights group says there are no minority-owned subcontractors working on the 49ers new stadium.

"As far as we could tell there was absolutely no minority business participation on the stadium whatsoever," said attorney Oren Sellstrom with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.

So the group wrote a letter addressed to Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews who responded, saying, "Well, you know, I'm surprised a little at receiving this response."

The mayor says the contracts were put out to bid following California law that forbids special treatment for any group.

"Did we do targeted outreach to any business?" Matthews asked. "No, none in particular. And the reason is we wanted to have quality of people coming in that could that were competent to get the stadium done."

The stadium is being built by Turner Construction out of New York and Devcon out of Milpitas. Turner-Devcon set up a list of preferred subcontractors based on those companies that applied.

When asked if they have a list of people that applied and were denied, Sellstrom answered, "The problem is that they weren't notified of the opportunity to apply."

The legal director of the lawyers committee says the Turner-Devcon only reached out to certain subcontractors.

"But did not do the kind of broad public outreach that taxpayers have come to expect for projects that are built with taxpayer funds," Sellstrom said.

Santa Clara's mayor scoffs at notion that broad public outreach was needed.

"It was obviously an international and national story that we were going out to bid on this and of course it was no secret that there would be competition for it," Matthews said.

But in fact, knowing that a stadium is being built is not the same as knowing when to put in a bid for a particular part of the work. The lawyers committee says minority-owned firms weren't given that notice so that they could compete.

"And that's all we're asking, the opportunity for folks to throw their hat in the ring," Sellstrom said. "If they win the contact if they win the contract fine, if they don't win the contract fine, but at least don't bar people at the door."

On Thursday night the company building the stadium issued this statement, "We can positively report that minority-owned firms were awarded contracts to work on the stadium project and are responsible for completing tens of millions of dollars construction on the stadium."

Problem is Turner-Devcon wouldn't name the companies that they say were hired. Their spokesman told me he's working on that.

In the meantime, the company points out that half the work being done on the stadium has been done by minority employees, if not minority-owned companies. We'll continue to track this story and let you know if that lawyers' group takes any legal action.


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