Photo by John Schreiber
Photo by John Schreiber

Local black contractors are being unfairly excluded from work on Metro projects, including the Expo and Crenshaw lines, the head of a group of minority workers said Monday in announcing the filing of a lawsuit against the county, the transit agency and numerous other contractors.

“Everybody’s being hurt by this, but nothing to the degree of black folks,” Drexell Johnson, founder and executive director of the Young Black Contractors Association, said during a news conference in front of the downtown County Courthouse. Latinos and women also are being denied jobs, he said.

Johnson filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court and is acting as his own attorney. The complaint alleges a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing as well as a violation of the state Business and Professions Code.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that decisions by Metro officials in awarding construction contracts were shaped by “special payoffs through the use of special fundraisers that were designed and in fact did influence Metro’s governing body.”

Metro spokesman Jose Ubaldo issued a statement today in response to the lawsuit.

“Metro’s record in generating jobs and business opportunities for minorities of all ethnicities is exemplary,” the statement read. “There is a strong commitment of our contractors to comply with Metro’s goals for contracting with small and disadvantaged businesses. In addition, the contractor on the Crenshaw/LAX Project, Walsh Shea Corridor Constructors, has reached out to the Young Black Contractors Association and will continue to do so.”

Johnson contends that many of the contractors chosen to work on Metro projects are based in other states and that workers living in Los Angeles and available to do the jobs are being overlooked.

“Our kids are going to school hungry because we’re not working,” he said.

Johnson alleged promises are often made by Metro to black contractors, but they are rarely kept. He said various politicians, both black and white, will be the subject of recall efforts for not doing enough to help get jobs for black contractors.

He charged that other black groups, including the Urban League, also have shirked many of their responsibilities to help local black contractors.

He said the lawsuit was filed a last resort.

“We didn’t want to have to do this,” Johnson said.

City News Service

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