In the first case of its kind following the implementation of Proposition 209, civil rights advocates filed a federal class action lawsuit (Lucy's Sales et al. v. Contra Costa County) in U.S. District Court today. The suit charges that Contra Costa County systematically and intentionally excludes minority- and women-owned businesses from doing business with the County in violation of federal law.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the Employment Law Center, the ACLUs of Northern and Southern California and the private law firm of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati filed the suit on behalf of businesses that are denied equal opportunity to bid for contracts with the County. The case is brought under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States constitution, as well as under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"Proposition 209 must not be used as an excuse to close the door to women and minorities." said Dan Tokaji, an ACLU staff attorney. "This lawsuit is an effort to make sure the door is open to them. Unless affirmative steps are taken, women and minorities will continue to be denied an equal opportunity to compete."

Plaintiff Lucy Lacy, an African American woman who owns a supply company, has experienced the County's exclusionary policies firsthand. Despite the fact that she is certified by the County as a minority and woman-owned business and has repeatedly approached the County for business, County officials have never asked her to compete for a contract. "I can't even get my foot in the door," said Lacy. "All I want is a chance to compete, but the County's system is just closed off to anyone who's not in the `good ole boys' network."

Other named plaintiffs include Lidia Tarango, a Hispanic owner of a trucking company; Lisa Harrison, owner of Harrison's Consulting; Glen Fox, owner of a flooring business; and Frederick Jordan, an African American civil engineer. Several organizations representing the interests of minority- and women-owned businesses are also parties to the lawsuit, including the Contra Costa branches of the NAACP, the Northern California Latin Business Association, and the Coalition for Economic Equity.

Contra Costa County is the first local government in northern California to drop its affirmative action program in the wake of Proposition 209. The County's own statistics show that white male-owned businesses receive almost 99% of the $100 million in County contracts for goods and services each year.