Shelby County Delays Road Project Due to Minority Participation Concerns

road construction

Shelby County officials will postpone an important road paving project because they can’t find an affordable contractor who offers at least 28 percent minority participation.

The 28 percent participation rate is a goal for the county. It is not a requirement, said the county’s Chief Diversity Officer Shep Wilbun.

“If the goal is not met then there is something called Good Faith Effort tests that show that if you tried to meet the goal but you weren’t able to then you are still eligible for receiving of a contract to be awarded,” Wilbun told The Tennessee Star.

“If a good faith effort was not made in compliance with our ordinance and the goal was not met then that bid can be considered not one for us to award.”

This road project is supposed to cover areas outside Memphis, in the northern and southern parts of the county, Wilbun said. He had no further details.

According to, representatives with two companies placed bids for the road paving project. The company that made the lower bid didn’t agree to hire 28 percent minorities. Officials with the other company agreed to meet the goal, but their bid was reportedly too high.

County Commission Chairman Van Turner, according to the site, reportedly said “this is the price everybody is going to have to pay for decades of unfair treatment.”

“For the last 100 to 200 years’ minorities and women have been left out of the picture,” Van Turner said.

“That’s the point, and so if we’ve got to pay a little more to bring some equity to the county, then we’ve got to do it.”

Van Turner declined The Star’s request for an interview.

County officials will open bids again. That means they will have to delay road work until the spring, reported.

If the road work delay inconveniences drivers then why not speed things up by hiring the most qualified people for the job, at the best price, regardless of ethnicity, The Star asked Wilbun?

The answer, Wilbun said, has much to do with a previous county study.

This study, Wilbur said, proves county officials awarded too few contracts to women and minorities in the past.

“It is a historical disparity. It has existed for years,” Wilbun said.

“Our purchasing policies and ordinances allow for the lowest and best bids. It does not say the lowest. It allows for the lowest and best. And best can include factors other than low price. Among them can be the desire to include local businesses and local minority businesses and local women businesses.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]







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One Thought to “Shelby County Delays Road Project Due to Minority Participation Concerns”

  1. Mj

    This totally idiotic.