City manager announces changes to SBE program

Published: Jul. 15, 2015 at 10:46 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - In light of concerns being raised surrounding alleged fraudulent activity involving Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) "front companies," the Department of Economic Inclusion (DEI) will be taking the two steps to ensure minority- and women-owned businesses that do business with the city of Cincinnati meet all City certification criteria, according to a memo sent my City Manager Harry Black.

According to Black, companies certified by the city through the EDGE (Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity) program will be sent letters notifying them they have 60 days to submit a city of Cincinnati SBE application through the Vendor Compliance and Certification System portal.

That will enable DEI to conduct a thorough review of each application to ensure that the applicant meets the City's certification criteria.

In addition, companies with pending applications received through the EDGE program will be notified that DEI will no longer accept EDGE applications. Those applications will be required to apply for certification through the city's standard small business enterprise (SBE) application process.

Black notes in the memo that while this process may not bring an end to all fraudulent activity, it is a first step to uncover problems that may have existed for some time.

The goal of DEI is to increase the number of legitimate small, minority- and women owned businesses eligible to participate in the city's procurement program, according to Black.

This is coming in light of the recent investigation into Evans Landscaping.

The FBI raided several of the company's location, including on in Newton on July 7.  The owner's attorney told FOX19 NOW that it's a narrow target investigation into MBE.

Records obtained by FOX19 NOW show Evans Construction is named in a fraud lawsuit and counter suit with a company called Ergon Site Construction, which claims Evans used Ergon as a way to get minority projects.

FOX19 NOW also received documents showing Evans awarded some $8 million worth of school demolition projects in Ohio, in which Ergon was listed as the minority business in many instances.

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