Black contractors are talking lawsuit

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Norman Edwards is president of the Black Contractors Group, which monitors construction sites countywide to ensure minority contractors and workers are getting their fair share. A noble cause, yes. But as Scene reported last year, Edwards’ past business dealings make him at best a highly questionable choice for the job ["Slave to His Past," April 4, 2006]. He’s no diplomat, either. When he isn’t blowing up at the Port Authority or the county commissioners, he’s been known to lash out at one of his own. Still, an article in this week’s issue of Crain’s Cleveland Business suggests Edwards may finally have found the ally he needs to overcome his own hard-assed incompetence. He’s pitched his plight to Avery Friedman, a prominent civil-rights lawyer who collects accolades like Edwards does enemies: legal commentator for CNN, chief counsel for the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies, and winner of the NAACP’s Freedom Award, among a whole lotta other things. Edwards told Crain’s he’s working with Friedman to build a lawsuit against contractors who’ve used minority fronts on public projects. He’ll have plenty to choose from. In Cleveland, fronts come cheaper than quarter-inch plywood. (For more, check out two stories by ace reporter Lisa Rab: “Lone Ranger,” April 11 and “Black on Black Crime,” February 21.) Friedman confirmed a meeting with Edwards “a couple months ago.” He tasked him with collecting evidence of discrimination, but has yet to hear back. “At this point I accept the purity of the cause,” says Friedman. “I just need to see the underlying data.” In the meantime, Edwards has his eye on the county’s new $120-million administration building. “Until we’re treated fairly here, don’t build it,” he growled during last month’s meeting of the county commissioners. “I’ll do everything I can – spend every dollar I have – to stop that project from moving forward.” – Jason Nedley

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