Businessman seeks to meet with commissioners about hiring preferences

Man wants meeting with commissioners
Hasan

Augusta businessman A.K. Hasan is demanding an audience before the Augusta Commission on Tuesday to voice concerns about his treatment by Turner Construction, the city’s general contractor on $40 million in renovations at the Augusta Municipal Building.

In a Thursday e-mail to commissioners and the media, Hasan said Turner project manager Jennifer Henderson made the “bold announcement” at the pre-bid conference that Turner would utilize no preference for women or minorities in its award of bids to electrical subcontractors, while Hasan, who is black, was the only minority in the room.

Later, she followed up with an e-mail to Hasan telling him he was “not qualified,” for various reasons, to bid on the project, he said.

“What has happened to the concept of allowing bidders to complete the process before declaring them a nuisance?” Hasan said, seeking an emergency commission vote to allow him to speak about the matter Tuesday.

Hasan said he’d previously worked as a subcontracted equipment supplier alongside Hebbard Electric on a project at Fort Gordon overseen by general contractor Tetra Tech, and intended to forge a similar relationship with electrical contractor Kelly Peel on the Municipal Building job to address any qualification issues. Electrical contractors Keith Hebbard of Alrich Electric, John Hebbard of Hebbard Electric and Peel also attended the June 12 conference.

Augusta commissioners cited the open subcontract bid in declining to speak about the matter.

“The question was asked if there were any goals for the project,” Schroeder said. While Atlanta-based Turner aspires to use 20 percent women and minorities in other cities, it doesn’t do so in Augusta, she said, because of a court order enjoining the city from using raceorgender-based preference in the award of contracts.

Peel said, however, that the contractors had already been informed about Turner not using preference at an earlier meeting.

“It was just so unprofessional,” he said of Henderson’s statements. “We just wanted to quote the project.”

Hasan’s assertion comes at a time of heightened sensitivity to race and contractor behavior.

The commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to extend the contract of Heery International, project manager over the Municipal Building project for two years despite questions about billing practices, and whether to hire a single person to serve as Equal Employment Opportunity Director and Director of Minority and Small Business Opportunities as specified in the city charter.

Commissioner Marion Williams, who is calling Tuesday wants to hire a “county attorney” as specified in the charter, said two women, Jacqueline Humphrey and Yvonne Gentry, were hired to serve as EEO and small business department heads a few years ago because “it was so much work for one person to do.”

The hiring proposal upset Commissioner Bill Lockett when Commissioner Joe Jackson attempted to add it to the administrative services committee agenda. Lockett said the hire would eliminate the jobs of both Humphrey and Gentry.

“I shut it down. I wouldn’t allow it,” said Lockett, who is seeking a “no confidence” vote Tuesday on General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, in part for advising Jackson on the issue.

Jackson, meanwhile, said hiring a director would create a single position, “accountable to the commission,” to oversee equal employment and disadvantaged business issues.

“They need a boss,” Jackson said. “It’s not against them.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith said it was unusual that Lockett, who speaks out about equal rights, opposed a move that might allow the city to collect the disparity data it needs for the race and gender injunction to be lifted.

ON THE AGENDA

Other items on Tuesday’s commission agenda include:

• A proposal to merge First Tee of Augusta and Augusta Municipal Golf Course and spend $1.9 million in sales tax dollars to redesign “The Patch” as a shorter course

• A timeline and budget for several landscaping, lighting and other improvements at Augusta’s Riverwalk

• A 252-unit apartment complex at 1034 Alexander Drive and 2000 Fleetwood Drive

• An appeal by Timothy Lowery on the commission’s suspension of the alcohol and business license of Skittlez Bar and Grille

• A proposal to hire Ellis Albright and the CSRA Business League to assist with minority business development

• A 4 p.m. meeting of the commission’s ethics subcommittee and a 4:30 p.m. closed-door session with attorneys

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