Black Firm That Allied with Inner-City Group Says Agency Dropped It

WASHINGTON -- The Resolution Trust Corp. is investigating charges that it snubbed a vendor after the company affiliated with an inner-city social services organization.

However, Johnnie Booker, vice president of minority and women's programs at the agency, said last week that it is taking longer than expected to respond to the charges of racial discrimination. "It's not as easy as we thought it would be. I want to be sure I have covered every aspect," Ms. Booker said.

Representatives from the title search firm, Title Recon Tracking, and its affiliate, Institute for Black Economic Independence demonstrated outside the RTC last month, carrying signs and chanting "Blow the whistle on the RTC."

They said they were protesting because the RTC stopped awarding contracts to Title Recon after it affiliated with the institute, a minority-owned subcontractor. A 1993 law requires the RTC to achieve minority participation in major contracts.

Title Recon President William Bowen said he would like to call for a congressional investigation into the RTC's practice of awarding contracts.

"Our work had been rated outstanding in the past. They haven't given us a good answer why this happened," Mr. Bowen said.

Ms. Booker said she has sent staff members to the RTC's Atlanta field office to research Title Recon's charges. She added that she hopes she can provide answers by Friday.

"They may have had an unfortunate situation. But because they used that minority contractor was not a cause of their problem... I am positive of that," she said last week.

The Institute for Black Economic Independence does literacy and job-training programs for inner-city youth in the Los Angeles area, preparing them for jobs with Title Recon and other firms. Entertainer Isaac Hayes, a supporter of the program who participated in the protest, said that the RTC was standing in the way of projects that turn people's lives around.

"The real crooks aren't in the inner city, they're in the suits and ties," Mr. Hayes said at the protest.

Stephen Katsanos, director of corporate communications for the RTC, said after the protest that the RTC is making a strong effort to include minority and women-owned businesses in all contracts.

"We have improved incentives and given additional weight to minority firms. We want to increase involvement of these groups. But it doesn't mean we're awarding contracts exclusively to minority firms. We still want to get quality work at the best price for the taxpayer," Mr. Katsanos said.

Mr. Katsanos said the 16.7% of its contracts went to minority firms for the six months ended June 30, up from 6.2% in 1989-90. Mr. Nielsen writes for the Medill News Service.

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