The following was among actions taken at Tuesday's meeting of the Prince George's County Council. For more information, call 952-5182.
MINORITY BUSINESS PROCUREMENT -- The council approved three bills designed to increase the number of business contracts the county awards to minority firms.
The council voted 6 to 1 to amend the county procurement law to require county purchasing agents to identify minority firms and inform them of the requirements for participating in the procurement program.
To participate, firm owners must prove that their businesses are 51 percent minority owned. The amendment to the procurement law also would allow noncompetitive bidding. Member Floyd Wilson voted against the bill.
The council also voted 6 to 1, with member Anthony Cicorcia the lone dissentor, to create a commission to monitorehow the county awards minority contracts. The commission will be composed of members of black community organizations, such as the Coalition for Black Economic Development, county officials and interested county residents.
The council also passed a resolution that explains the intent of the procurement program.
Failing by one vote was a proposed charter amendment which would have asked voters to decide next November whether the county should set aside a certain percentage of contracts for minority firms. The vote was 5 to 2, with members Cicoria and F. Kirwan Wineland voting against the bill. A charter amendment needs a minimum six votes.
Chairwoman Hilda R. Pemberton, who sponsored the bills that passed Tuesday, placed the charter amendment bill on the Nov. 17 agenda for reconsideration when all council members are expected to be present.
The council also rejected 2 to 5 a bill that would have required at least 30 percent of all county contracts be awarded to minority firms.
Pemberton said she proposed the charter amendment bill as a compromise to legislation suggested by Wilson that would requiring the county to set aside a mandatory percentage of contracts for minority firms.
Sen. Decatur Trotter, one of more than 200 persons to speak on the package of legislation, said a charter amendment is not needed to allow the county to set aside contracts for minority firms.
"State law already allows for it. The charter would only hold up the bill and the set aside for minority firms," Trotter said.
Walter H. Maloney Jr., an attorney, said he opposed the charter amendment and the bills associated with it because they amount to giving special favors "at the expense of everyone else."
"In my book, that's just another name for pork barrel political patronage," Maloney said.
Maloney also said that for the amendment to survive a legal challenge, the county must first prove that it has discriminated against blacks and other minority groups in the awarding of contracts. He said the county had not "until now."
Council members and County Executive Parris Glendening have in the past said the county has not awarded enough contracts to minority firms for a county that is about 45 percent black.
The minority contract issue has received widespread attention in the county's black community since Pemberton and Glendening first unveiled a plan Sept. 21 that would direct the county to voluntarily award 30 percent of its contracts to minority firms.
Glendening, who was not at the hearing, has said he opposes the charter amendment and a mandatory set-aside plan because he believes they are unconstitutional and would not survive a court challenge.
The county's current charter requires that most contracts valued at more than $15,000 be publicly advertised and awarded to the highest bidder. An amendment is needed to allow the couunty to bypass the competitive biddin process and set aside a percentage of contracts for minority firms.