County says it can't fulfill NAACP request

County says it can't fulfill NAACP request

April 14th, 2011 by Dan Whisenhunt in Business Around the Region

If the local chapter of the NAACP wants information on minority hiring at companies that have received tax breaks from Hamilton County, it will have to approach those companies individually.

The county initially tried to respond to the NAACP request by asking the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga to collect minority hiring information on companies that received payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements, such as Volkswagen.

Such agreements, known as PILOTs, are property tax breaks that excuse companies from tax bills for a period of time.

According to an email sent on April 6, the Urban League will not be able to gather that information.

"The Urban League's contract with Hamilton County government requires us to visit only county-funded construction sites forwarded to us by your purchasing department on a quarterly basis and record the number of women and minority employees at each site," Urban League President and CEO Warren Logan Jr. wrote.

County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said the county will not gather the information for the NAACP.

"We don't have the information that they're asking for, so they need to go to those companies and ask them that information," Taylor said. "The law doesn't require us [to give them] something that we don't have, and we don't have it."

NAACP President Valoria Armstrong on March 21 wrote a letter to Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and sent copies to Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, City Council Chairman Manny Rico, County Commission Chairman Larry Henry and Gloria Jean Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The letter requested the information under the Tennessee Open Records Act.

"Many people feel strongly that there is widespread employment discrimination in our area, and if allowed to continue will further weaken our community," Armstrong wrote.

Armstrong did not return several messages left for her Wednesday seeking comment.

In response to a newspaper reporter's request, Volkswagen, which has received a PILOT agreement, reported that minorities currently make up 24 percent of its employees in Chattanooga.

Henry said he agrees with the county attorney's decision.