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Grand Prix, NAACP reach diversity agreement

Race organizers will consider board members and charities the civil rights group suggests.

By MARCUS FRANKLIN
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 6, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and its charitable foundation recently hit a bump in their community relations, but things are back on track.

In an e-mail, the president of the local NAACP, Darryl Rouson, recently accused race organizers of failing to include any African-Americans on the foundation's all-white 16-member board as well as among the charities to benefit from the foundation's fundraiser. The inaugural event is Feb. 21-23.

This week, Tom Begley, general manager of the Grand Prix and chairman of the Grand Prix Foundation of St. Petersburg, accepted an invitation to meet with Rouson and the NAACP's executive committee.

After 45 minutes, they reached an agreement: The NAACP would supply Begley with the names of five people who could serve on the foundation's board; the foundation will begin considering the candidates at its March meeting and will select at least two by next year's race.

Also, the NAACP will recommend three African-American charities that could benefit from the proceeds of the foundation's Grand Prix Drivers' and Ambassadors' Ball Feb. 20 at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort. The foundation will select one of the charities to receive proceeds from the ball. Tickets range from $150 a person to corporate sponsorship packages ranging from $2,000 to $45,000.

"Overall it was a very candid discussion that led to very positive results," Rouson said after Tuesday's meeting. "The whole issue was inclusion, not leaving inclusion to chance but assertively taking steps to make sure a significant segment of the population is included."

Begley said the Grand Prix and foundation have sought inclusion from the beginning. He said three African-Americans were asked to serve on the board "months ago and for various reasons" they declined, he said.

Moreover, the three charities the foundation selected from among 36 applications -- the National Conference for Community and Justice, Tampa Bay region; the Salvation Army; and the emergency room at Bayfront Medical Center -- serve a diverse clientele.

"The charities we selected are inclusionary," Begley said.

Of the nine food and beverage subcontractors for the event, five are minority-owned, three of them African-American, two female, Begley said. Three of the four cleaning subcontractors are African-American owned, he said. Begley said a subcontract for security was offered to an African-American owned firm, but the company declined because the job was too big.

And roughly 30 percent of the workers at the temporary employment agency the Grand Prix contracted with, the woman-owned Delta Temporary Help, in Midtown, are African-American, Begley said.

"I would characterize our process as inclusionary," Begley said.

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