Tallahassee Reports has learned that the consultant chosen to complete a disparity study for Tallahassee/Leon County for $536,900 told the City of Virginia Beach that a disparity study could be done for between $200,000-$300,000.
On February 21, 2017 the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency (composed of City and County Commissioners) will be asked by staff to authorize the negotiation of a contract with MGT of America to conduct a racial disparity study for up to $536,000.
The Virginia Pilot reported on February 7, 2017 that “Vernetta Mitchell, a senior consultant for MGT Consulting Group, said a study in Virginia Beach would likely cost $200,000 to $300,000.”
On December 16, 2016, in a Virginia Pilot editorial by the Mayor of Virginia Beach, Mayor Sessoms voiced the lack of support of a disparity study that “would cost the city between $400,000 and $750,000.”
Ms. Mitchell’s price quote of $200,000 to $300,000 came after the editorial.
Ms. Mitchell is listed as a “Senior Consultant” in the $536,000 proposal to be considered by the Leon County/Tallahassee Blueprint IA this Tuesday.
The City of Virginia Beach has a population of approximately 450,000 while the population of Leon County is approximately 290,000. Since larger governments will have more contracts to be reviewed in a disparity study, population can be a factor in explaining the costs.
Tallahassee Reports has also learned that over the last two years a number of communities have paid significantly less for racial disparity studies than the $536,900 that the Blueprint IA is considering.
TR’s findings are listed below with populations.
Columbus, OH (Pop. 830,000)……………..$435,000
Albany, GA (Pop. 76,000)……………………..$315,000
Shelby County, TN (Pop. 940,00)………….$310,000
Tall/Leon County, FL (Pop. 290,000)……$536,000
Austin, TX (Pop. 890,000)…………………$1,000,000
A disparity study is a review that compares the amount of city contracts awarded to minority vendors with the number of businesses available that can do the work.
Some studies find that some minority groups, including women-owned businesses, don’t get a proportional number of city contracts. The disparity percentage can be used to set goals giving minority-owned firms more contracts.
Also, often times disparity studies occur when there are allegations of racial discrimination in awarding contracts.
Why is the City of Tallahassee considering paying more than similar sized jurisdictions for a disparity study?
One issue is the amount of money the City and County allocated for the study was publicly available before the request for bids were sought.
The City voted to allocate $300,000 and the County voted to allocate $250,00 and then asked for consultants to submit bids. Usually bids are requested before a vote on acceptable expenditures.
The three bids submitted to the Blueprint IA by the consultants were $536,900, $547,000 and $440,260.
Also, there is no indication in the details of the agenda item that staff investigated what other cities have paid for racial disparity studies.
And finally, the proposal may be more because the request includes both the City and the County.
However, the staff wrote that in April 2016, the County and City Commissioners agreed to consolidate the two County/City offices into one joint office, the Minority, Women, and Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) Division. This Division is within the Tallahassee/Leon County Office of Economic Vitality and is governed by the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency.
Given the above circumstances, there is a rationale that a study for a consolidated department should be less than the total of what would have been paid separately, which was $550,000 ($250,000 for the County and $300,000 for the City).