San Antonio - It has been alleged that Bexar County has a "Pay to Play" system where top campaign donors get the big contracts in Bexar County. For a number of years, various business people and organizations have claimed to make Open Records request from the county, but no reply was ever received. These request were dated to time periods before Tommy Calvert was elected as County Commissioner and as a member of the Fair Contractor Coalition. Last year, with the release of the Report Card, where minority chambers expressed their joy for high performing public agencies like Port San Antonio or their disappointment for a lack of transparency to public information review request that included Bexar County who received an F grade.
Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff has taken the majority of the criticism from the minority community. Commissioners Sergio "Chico" Rodriguez, Commissioner Paul Elizondo, Commissioner Kevin A. Wolff and Commissioner Tommy Calvert have been included in the criticism. FCC leader TC Calvert has publicly stated "while I don't want to assign an F grade, to include my son, we have to expose a situation that was there long before Tommy was elected."
Last week the Fair Contractor Coalition received a break thru with receiving an Open Records reply to know how the County has used tax payer funds. Bexar County data received shows a severe problem and that is support for local small women and minority businesses received between 15% and 24% over the previous three years. With this region's population being over 85% minority, how can Bexar County support these minority businesses at such a low rate of participation?
The top amount spent under contracts was $227,081,481 in 2014/2015, Bexar County records show $35,580,651 or 15.67% was spent with small minority and women businesses. To really understand what this spend represents, the reader must look further. Out of the 15.67%, minority businesses earned $15,118,812 of the $227,081,48. The verdict is the minority businesses received 6.6% of the total spend! This is why the data was never released. The other observation is African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans are sharing the 6.6% - which means the individual slices are super thin and maybe non-existent for some groups.
In response, the Fair Contractor Coalition (FCC) announced two more blockbuster names to complete the advocacy roster. Businesswoman and former District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan was chosen with strong Eastside business owner, Jane Gonzalez to lead the Fair Contractor Coalition's efforts. Chan and Gonzalez join the past chair of the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce, Deborah Omowale, as Tri-Chairs.
In this election year, Paul Elizondo, one of the longest serving commissioners, now must justify why he didn't provide more opportunities to the minority business community.
Why Bexar County would choose to starve minority businesses for years is a question for the County Commissioners to answer.
Bexar County in 2016 published a 300 page document the "African-American Business Enterprise Research Survey" conducted by the Institute for Economic Development, The University of Texas at San Antonio, that provided a summary to participation factors of government contracts and procurement. This survey justified the county's perspective. Nelson Wolff states in the report, "Bexar County Commissioners Court is supportive of the study and aims to see increased opportunities for African-American owned businesses within our community." The study now appears to be disingenuous as Bexar County needs an overhaul to how it deals with the community it governs over. In order to improve outreach and participation, the county has to be more transparent and be much more aggressive to contract with minority firms who are ready, willing, and able to perform.
"The combination of Chan, Gonzalez, Omowale, and Calvert is almost like the FCC's version of the Bexar County Commissioner's Court. This team has the legislative skills, the advocacy, the political skills and most importantly, the team has the willpower of the people of Bexar County. Mobilizing African American, Asian American and Hispanic American business owners is probably not what Paul Elizondo needed as he seeks re-election. There is no way to justify the past performance of Bexar County that the Wolff's and Elizondo have been a part of for decades." says a Norma Gonzalez Williams, a minority business owner. "Everyone will take notice of the FCC's work with this historic announcement."
SA Observer will report on this story as more details become released.