LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky has paid $650,000 to a minority-owned Louisville company that accused state officials of “discriminatory” actions, costing it a contract on the Ohio River Bridges Project.
Mathis & Sons made the claims in a federal lawsuit it filed in 2014 against the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which oversees a state certification process for firms owned by women and minorities.
The sides signed off on the agreement December 19, according to settlement papers WDRB News obtained through an open records request. The lawsuit was dismissed in U.S. District Court in Louisville January 3.
“We were pleased with the settlement,” Glenn Cohen, an attorney for Mathis & Sons, said in a telephone interview Monday.
In a statement, the Transportation Cabinet said its office for civil rights and small business development promotes opportunities for disadvantaged businesses and “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”
“These allegations, made during the previous administration, were settled to put to rest claims against the Cabinet in an effort to avoid costly and lengthy court proceedings,” the statement says. “The settlement clearly states the agreement is not an admission of fault by the Cabinet, and an investigation by the Federal Highway Association confirms no evidence of discriminatory practices.”
Mathis claimed in court documents that it was in line to land a $13,400-per-month contract on the $2.3 billion bridges project with Walsh Construction in 2013, but to do so it needed to keep its minority-owned status and add another certification.
Those designations were recommended by a state investigator, but his proposal was changed without his knowledge and by the time a state committee granted the approvals months later, Walsh had chosen another company for the work, according to the lawsuit.
The investigator, Reed Hampton, later resigned from the Transportation Cabinet over what he said were the agency’s “discriminatory practices.”
Mathis argued that “racial animus toward African Americans” was a factor in the state’s actions.
The Federal Highway Administration found in an investigation that black-owned businesses left the state’s disadvantaged business program at a higher rate than white-owned companies, but there was no “disparate impact” on African American-owned firms during the certification process.
State officials said in court filings that its inspectors needed more information about Mathis’ ownership when they were reviewing the certification in 2013.