A Better St. Louis. Powered by Journalism.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Print
  • Email

MSD plans study on its minority hiring practices, delays interim changes

In Economy

4:03 pm on Tue, 02.07.12

After the agency's executive director asked for more time, the Metropolitan Sewer District's Board of Trustees decided today to hold off on changes to its minority-hiring policies.

In recent months MSD's minority hiring policies have come under renewed scrutiny, especially after the agency announced last year it would undertake a $4.7 billion plan to settle a federal lawsuit. Jeff Theerman, the agency's executive director, said at a January board meeting that MSD would launch a disparity study and make interim changes to current policies.

While the board is poised to approve a measure launching a disparity study on Thursday, Theerman told board members Tuesday that after discussion with stakeholders -- including Adolphus Pruitt, the president of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP -- it would be prudent to wait a month before going forward with the interim changes.

Photo by Jason Rosenbaum | for the Beacon
From left, Metropolitan Sewer District Board of Trustees Eddie Ross Jr., Bob Berry and James Buford talk before the start of a Tuesday meeting. The board will hold off on making interim changes to the agency's minority hiring policies for at least 30 days.

"I want to make good on what I said at the last meeting," said Theerman. "And the last thing I wanted to do is give the perception that this is stalling or we're not honoring what we said. I am sensitive to that."

The decision to launch a disparity study and establish interim policies came after a resolution failed in December. It stipulated that MSD's contracts worth at least $50,000 had to include 25 percent for minority-owned businesses and 5 percent for women-owned businesses. It also would have set goals of 25 percent minority and 6.9 percent women on construction projects greater than $50,000, as well as workforce targets of 25 percent minority and 5 percent women on professional services contracts greater than $50,000.

Pruitt, who attended Tuesday's meeting, said in an interview that more time was needed to make sure that the interim policies were adequate. The St. Louis branch of the NAACP had threatened to boycott St. Louis and St. Louis County if MSD didn't make major changes to its minority contracting and workforce policies.

Claude Brown -- a former local NAACP president brought in to facilitate the situation -- said there would be a push for a "comprehensive approach" to the agency's minority hiring and workforce policies, as well as training programs. Some organized labor groups had expressed concern about changing the policies without going through with a disparity study.

"You've got to get people to sign off on that," Brown said. "You've got to get the unions that are involved. You've got to get the minority groups involved. [And you've] got to understand that it's a collaborative effort. It's not a 'we versus them' effort. And I think that MSD understands that."

Asked whether a boycott was still on the horizon, Pruitt said, "Just like they're moving to take the steps necessary to establish interim goals, we're taking the steps necessary to put a boycott in place. Hopefully before we all reach our final destination, we find something we agree on. Our deadline is April. It seems to me their deadline is March. We'll see what happens."

Slay Offers Support

Meanwhile, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says he is optimistic that the Metropolitan Sewer District can make sweeping changes to its minority hiring policies. (Click here to read about the newest trustee appointed by St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.)

Slay, who appoints three members to the MSD Board of Trustees, told the Beacon on Tuesday that he supports altering the agency's guidelines to "maximize" minority participation. He also said he's been in contact with the three St. Louis trustees on the board. (While two of the three St. Louis County trustees voted for the resolution in December, the resolution failed when two of the city's trustees voted against it.)

"Maximizing minority participation" for the agency, Slay said, involves contracting with minority-owned companies and women-owned businesses as well as increasing "the minority workforce."

"This is a huge investment in our infrastructure," Slay said. "There's going to be a lot of money spent. There's going to be a lot of people employed over a long period of time. So the message that I'm sending to our leadership and our members of MSD and the other members as well is that we have to take advantage of this."

Two board members from St. Louis -- John Goffstein and David Visintainer -- voted against the December resolution. And according to the county charter, two trustees from St. Louis County and two trustees from St. Louis must vote affirmatively to pass any ordinance or resolution.

Slay said he is confident that one of the trustees will switch sides

"I will tell you that I have every confidence that this board's going to do the right thing," Slay said. "And I can assure you that I and my office are very much involved in talking with the members to try and make sure that ... we all collectively as a region does the right thing for this community."

Jason Rosenbaum, a freelance journalist in St. Louis, covers local and state government and politics. To reach him, contact Beacon issues and politics editor Susan Hegger.

No Comments

Join The Beacon

When you register with the Beacon, you can save your searches as news alerts, rsvp for events, manage your donations and receive news and updates from the Beacon team.

Register Now

Already a Member

Getting around the new site

Take a look at our tutorials to help you get the hang of the new site.

Most Discussed Articles By Beacon Members

Conference of American nuns will mull response to Vatican charges

In Nation

7:55 am on Fri, 08.03.12

Meeting in St. Louis next week, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will have its first opportunity as an assembled group to consider what to do after the Vatican issued a mandate for change this spring. It calls on the conference to reorganize and more strictly observe church teachings.

The 'free' Zoo

In Commentary

7:51 am on Tue, 05.22.12

When a family of four goes to the St. Louis Zoo, they can be forgiven for not knowing it will cost them $60, $72 if they park. If they can't pay, the alternative is to tell the kids they can't do what kids do at the zoo.

Featured Articles

House sends Boeing incentive bill to Nixon

In Economy

12:55 pm on Fri, 12.06.13

The Missouri House easily passed legislation aimed at attracting production of the 777x, a move that wraps up a legislative special session that saw little suspense and few surprises. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon, who has strongly supported the legislation.

Gandhi inspired Mandela on South Africa's 'Long Road to Freedom'

In World

10:10 am on Fri, 12.06.13

Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, was a towering moral figure of the 20th century -- along with Mahatma Gandhi. It was no coincidence that Gandhi and Mandela, whose paths never crossed directly, both embarked on their campaigns against discrimination in South Africa. It was when Mandela won election as South Africa’s first black president that Gandhi's influence became apparent.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Encore: Dead before death

In Performing Arts

12:58 am on Fri, 12.06.13

For years , the author was certain he would never come to appreciate The Grateful Dead, let alone be a Deadhead. But little by little, he's come around. He talks about his conversion and relates a real evolution: by a musician who went on to play with the Schwag, a Dead cover band.

Featured Articles

Schlichter honored with St. Louis Award

In Region

4:57 pm on Tue, 12.03.13

The attorney has founded Arch Grants, which brings together nonprofit philanthropy and commercially viable opportunitiesto fund new business startups, and Mentor St. Louis, which finds adult mentors for elementary students in the St. Louis Public School System. He was the driving force behind the state's historic tax credit program.

BioGenerator sets open house to celebrate new digs for entrepreneurs-in-residence

In InnovationSTL

12:29 pm on Tue, 11.12.13

BioSTL's BioGenerator organization is on the move as its entrepreneurs-in-residence find a new home in 4,300 square feet of office and conference space in an old automobile factory. The blossoming program, which helps BioGenerator's portfolio companies to get off the ground, continues to pay dividends within the growing biotech community.

Ambassadors aim to soften rough landing for St. Louis immigrants

In InnovationSTL

6:34 am on Fri, 11.08.13

The St. Louis Mosaic Project is set to hold an orientation for its new ambassadors -- dozens of foreign and native-born volunteers who aim to help make the community a more welcoming place for those from other nations. Participants will be expected to do everything from visiting local restaurants serving international cuisine to having dinner with an immigrant to the area.

Recent Articles

More Articles

Innovation and entrepreneurial activity are on the rise in St. Louis, especially in bioscience, technology and alternative energy. The Beacon's InnovationSTL section focuses on the people who are part of this wave, what they're doing and how this is shaping our future. To many St. Louisans, this wave is not yet visible. InnovationSTL aims to change that. We welcome you to share your knowledge, learn more about this vibrant trend and discuss its impact.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Featured Articles

Featured Events:

More About The Beacon Home