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Black firms sue over "questionable" census contract

Two minority-owned PR firms have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Charlie Crist and the state, arguing the recent contract awarded to publicize the Census was discriminatory.

The $2.1 million contract was split into 12 groups of historically hard-to-count populations. The two firms who sued bid on two portions of the contract – black residents in south Florida and blacks in central and north florida. Those two pieces were worth $405,000.

The firms – N-Tersections Communications Group and Steele Communications Group – argue that one evaluator, Hue Reynolds with the Department of Education, was biased and gave them vastly lower scores than the winning firms. The winning firms are the Moore Group and Ketchum.

The process was “highly questionable and raised concerns from the beginning,” said LaKeitha Grey, the CEO of N-Tersections.

The groups said several delays in the contract process caused several missed opportunities to encourage black participation, such as MLK Day and black history month.

In their suit, the firms also argue the process of awarding contracts to minority businesses is flawed. State contracts awarded to black firms have declined sharply since their peak in 2002-03.

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