Mississippi Minority Contractors File Civil Action Against Toyota of North America

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African American principals of Fish & Fisher, a 10-year old construction company, have filed a civil racial discrimination and conspiracy action against Toyota of North America, the state of Mississippi Developent Authority, and the Governor of the State in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. The action claims that Fish & Fisher were denied the opportunity to bid on the Toyota Plant construction project as prime contractor.

The bid process was racially discriminatory and is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, codified at 42 USC ยง 1981

Jackie Williams and Renna Fisher, African American principals of Fish & Fisher, a ten-year old construction company, have filed a civil racial discrimination and conspiracy action against Toyota of North America; the State of Mississippi Development Authority; and the Governor of the State of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Western Division -- Civil Action # 3:09 CV 179 DJP-JCS.

The legal action claims that Fish & Fisher, Inc., a Mississippi Corporation located in Jackson, MS, was denied the opportunity to bid on the Toyota Plant construction project in Blue Springs, MS, as a prime contractor. "Toyota North America, with the aid and assistance of the State of Mississippi's Development Authority, held a closed bid for white-only prime contractors," stated Byron Perkins, attorney for the plaintiffs. "The bid process was racially discriminatory and is in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, codified at 42 USC § 1981," Perkins added.

Toyota and the State of Mississippi opened a bidding process for a forty-nine million dollar ($49,000,000.00) construction project. "The bidding systematically excluded African American companies. Fish and Fisher, even though qualified and licensed by the State of Mississippi as a general contractor, was not given the opportunity to bid as a prime contractor. In addition, Fish and Fisher had been certified by the National Minority Council as a minority prime contractor, prior to this Toyota project," said Renne Fisher, president of Fish & Fisher.

L & T Construction, a white owned company, partnered with M & H Construction in order to meet the financial qualification as prime contractors and was awarded the contract. During the initial phase of the work, M& H Construction dropped out of the project; however, the contract was not rebid.

Fish & Fisher entered into a subcontract with L & T Construction for six-million dollars to clear 500 acres of land and move 3.5 million cubic yards of dirt. "It soon became evident that the contract was in trouble as work slowed down and equipment set idle on the construction site. Work on the project was intermittent over a period of time and payment to Fish & Fisher stopped. Fish & Fisher turned to Toyota for remedies to the situation but received no satisfaction," stated business owner Jackie Williams.

Fish & Fisher have been teetering on the verge of insolvency. "It may as well have been 1960," said Ms. Williams. "It was clear from the beginning that they didn't want us out there. We showed up every day ready, willing, and able to work; and most days we put in ten to twelve hours of hard work in intense conditions. We were on schedule, ahead of schedule, and according to Toyota, performed the finest work they had ever witnessed. While we were there, we were treated like second-class citizens, denied access to pertinent information, threatened, and eventually terminated. We were forced to defend ourselves against bogus allegations of financial mismanagement. It was said that we bought an airplane when we couldn't buy fuel for our pick-ups. We cannot do business without being paid - on time - for the work we do. No small business can survive like that," Ms. Williams continued.

"We owe everybody in Mississippi but we have managed to stay in business. We have gone through our personal financial resources and we are surviving by the grace of God and our belief that right will prevail," said Mr. Fisher. "We remain in business because we have a reputation of providing good work."

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BUNNIE JACKSON-RANSOM
Fish & Fisher
404-505-8188
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