Among The Minority: Many Maryland MBE Contracts Going to Nonprofits

Franklin Lee was recently quoted in this article, which first appeared in the Baltimore Business Journal on April 1, 2011:

Maryland paid nearly $800 million to 20 contractors through the state’s minority business program over much of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s first term. But almost a third of that money went to nonprofits that help people with disabilities, not the minority- and women-owned companies the program was originally intended to boost.

One expert in MBE program law said not only does he disagree with including the nonprofits, but doing so might conflict with guidelines established in federal court.

Franklin Lee, an attorney with Tydings in Baltimore who has advised Maryland and many other states on minority business law, questioned why nonprofits are allowed to be certified under the program. While the social good they bring should be encouraged, Lee said, hiring them doesn’t help reverse any discrimination — which is the goal of the MBE program.

"I think the policymakers have confused two different policy objectives and kind of lumped them together," he said. "It has the unfortunate consequence of having those two different types of entities competing with each other when they really shouldn’t be."

It also might not fall within requirements that minority business programs be "narrowly tailored," established in the 1989 case City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., Lee said. In that case, the city lost in a challenge to its MBE program because it was deemed to be too broad. Since then, Maryland’s MBE program and its peers have had to focus strictly on reversing proven discrimination.

For the full article, click here.