Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fraud Claims Prompt Resignation Of Washington Minority Contracting Director

Televised claims of fraud and lack of responsiveness to Washington DOT minority business certification deadlines have led to the resignation of Washington Office of Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises Director Cathy Canorro. The resignation followed the third day of televised KING-5 news reports detailing contractor claims of fraudulent certification that unqualified businesses were certified by Canorro as eligible for women and minority set aside work on state projects. Several state ethics investigations regarding conduct at the OMWBE are also underway.

Canorro has also been under pressure from WDOT for failing to timely process applications of contracting companies for minority or women owned business certification, leading to an ultimatum April 17 from Washington Governor Chris Gregoire to shape up or face reorganization of OMWBE. Federal law requirements for MBE and WBE certification to receive set asides called for on numerous federally funded Washington construction projects have been the subject of criminal prosecutions for fraud in several jurisdictions in recent months.

Governor Gregoire’s press official Karina Shagren says the future of the state’s minority and women owned business certification process is uncertain. “A structural review of OMWBE is still underway, as is a top to bottom performance review. Once those reviews are complete, we’ll have a better idea of how the state will conduct the duties of OMWBE moving forward,” Shagren said. “In the meantime, a search will begin to identify candidates to replace Cathy.”

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