Contractor sues company alleging abuse of minority hiring requirements

CHICAGO (Fox 32 News) - An African American owned company that says it was used to win a city contract and then unfairly tossed aside will have its day in court on Thursday.

The trial will get underway on a lawsuit that alleges gamesmanship in the city's policies that require minority business participation in city contracts.

"They approached me about starting a smaller company,” said Lorenzo Harmon.

Harmon and his family-owned trucking business had a long relationship with K-Five, a large Westmont-based construction company, when in 2011 K-Five was awarded a multi-million-dollar paving contract at O’Hare and Midway.

"Well once they received their contract, they in turn told me, 'you're gonna be the minority on the job to do the small paving,'” Harmon said.

That's to satisfy the city of Chicago’s requirement that 25-percent of the contract go to a minority owned or disadvantaged business. Harmon says everything went well for two years. But then he complained that K-Five was forcing him to buy far more asphalt than he was using.

"Taxpayer dollars just going down the drain. I said to them why are we ordering so much mix and at the end of the night we just have to dump it in the trash pile?" Harmon said.

He says not long after that, his company was fired, costing him millions of dollars.

Now, in a lawsuit that will go to trial at the Daley Center, Harmon says he was used.

"They used me to get the contract. Then they turned around and threw me to the dogs,” Harmon said.

"Unfortunately this is business as usual in the City of Chicago, where city hall insiders are given preferential treatment and minority businesses are exploited,” said Harmon’s attorney, Dan Herbert.

But in a statement, a lawyer for K-Five says the company "...strongly denies the allegations in the complaint”…saying Harmon "..was unable to perform to required standards"…causing the city to issue a stop work order. "K-Five Construction shares the City's commitment to MBE."

FOX 32: “Had there ever been complaints about the quality of your work?"

"Never. No complaints at all,” Harmon said.