Businesses owned by women only get a sliver of city of Memphis contracts — a fact a group largely consisting of women business owners pointed out Wednesday in front of City Hall.
The group of about 10 also called the press conference to show support for Mayor A C Wharton’s campaign manager, Deidre Malone, who is facing scrutiny for an $880,147 subcontract between her marketing firm, the Carter Malone Group, and the company hired by the city to supply 2,000 police body cameras.
Beverly Robertson, the retired president of the National Civil Rights Museum, said private companies like city contractor Taser International have the right to hire whomever they choose.
“As long as the process is fair and equitable, there’s nothing to be concerned about,” she said.
Sara Lewis, a former board member of the now defunct Memphis City Schools, threw her fist in the air as she closed her animated remarks with the words, “Long live Carter Malone!”
She said it’s a shame the city doesn’t give more businesses to women. A report by the Office of Contract Compliance found that between July 1, 2014, and April 30, 2015, women-owned businesses received $5.6 million in contracts, or 2.5 percent of all city contracts.
In that same period, Contract Compliance found black-owned businesses received $17.6 million in contracts, or 5.8 percent of the city’s business.
In contrast, businesses owned by white men received $139.3 million in contracts, or 62.3 percent.
“It’s deplorable there’s still a good-old-boy network in this city,” Lewis said.
London Lamar, the entrepreneur and president of the Tennessee Young Democrats who helped organize the conference, said many women were “outraged” at the spotlight on Malone, when the firms of other candidates — like City Council member Kemp Conrad — have had similar subcontracts.
Conrad is a principal of real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Advisors, which is marketing the under-renovation Sears Crosstown.
Conrad recused himself from votes related to the redevelopment. Also, unlike the mayor, City Council doesn’t review and sign city contracts.
A previous version of this story said Malone attended. She did not.