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Minority business program called "sham'

The state Minority Business Enterprise program, created to help women and minority business owners, more often enriches system-savvy white males, critics say.

"You see these white men walking around grinning and winking at each other," Deanne Audie, owner of Deanne's Office and Computer Supply in Tallahassee, told the Tallahassee Democrat for a story Sunday.

The purchasing program's goal was to give historically disadvantaged businesses owned by blacks, Hispanics and women a fairer chance to compete with large, wealthy, white-owned businesses.

"People have manipulated the law and the system, especially white males, to take their wives into the business," Al Lawson, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, told the newspaper. "It's really just a sham."

Former Florida A&M head football coach Rudy Hubbard said white-owned businesses elbowed him out of the state's office-supply market six years ago.

Hubbard said that his company, Rudy Hubbard Office Supply, was consistently being underpriced by owners of established suppliers who competed for the state's minority purchasing allotments by putting the companies in their wives' names.

The state's goal for fiscal 1991-92 was for agencies to spend $123.5-million with businesses owned by women, blacks, Hispanics, American Indians or Asians. Less than half of that goal, $59-million, was met.

Rep. Art Simon, D-Kendall, heads a House subcommittee investigating the program. He disputes information supplied by the Department of Management Services, which oversees the program and compiles the statistics on how much each agency spends with certified minority businesses. "The figures that they're giving us aren't worth the paper they're written on," Simon said.

The panel recommended changes in the Minority Business Enterprise program to the 1994 Legislature.

Of 313,000 state vendors on Department of Management Services lists, 1,907 are minority business enterprises. Of those, women own 900, blacks 461, Hispanics 457, Asians 68 and American Indians 21.

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