SAN FRANCISCO — Contra Costa County government was cleared Thursday in a federal suit accusing it of discriminating against women- and minority-owned businesses in awarding contracts.
The county was California’s first to dismantle its preference program after the statewide passage of Proposition 209 in 1996.
Minority business owners and civil rights advocates sued the county in 1998, alleging the county had taken no action in response to a 1992 report that found a large portion of county contracts went to companies owned by white males, who then subcontracted duties to other companies owned by white males.
In response to the study, Contra Costa County began granting contract preferences to minorities and women, but abandoned the plan after Proposition 209. The county’s current plan demands that county departments attempt to recruit minorities and women for contracting services, but gives them no preference in bidding.
U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick ruled Thursday that the county is not legally liable in the case because it is not deliberately discriminating against people. Still, the judge ruled that the county could “more aggressively” recruit women and minority contractors to bid on projects.
The case is L. Tarango Trucking v. Contra Costa County, 98-2955.