BY AMY SHERMAN
Attorney Herbert Schlanger filed the Broward lawsuit on behalf of trade associations that represent contractors, engineers and architects.
Broward County's program to help minority-owned firms get county work is unconstitutional because it favors minorities and females, a federal lawsuit has charged.
The suit was filed by the same lawyer who has won similar suits against Miami-Dade County, most recently in 2004. Atlanta attorney Herbert Schlanger filed the Broward lawsuit on behalf of trade associations that represent contractors, engineers and architects.
The lawsuit contends that the county's policies put the associations at a competitive disadvantage in bidding and force them to hire subcontractors based on race, ethnicity or sex -- not quality.
Filed March 15 in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, the suit asks for unspecified damages and seeks to force the county to evaluate bids without regard to sex or race. It alleges that the county has violated the federal Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law.
In Miami-Dade, Schlanger said his suits forced the county to drop a minority set-aside program in favor of one to help small businesses compete for county contracts.
Hispanic and African-American business leaders said Broward's minority program levels the playing field. Minority-owned firms received about $114 million in county contracts last year, said Broward County Attorney Jeffrey Newton.