By JOUNICE L. NEALY
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 19, 2000
Amid settlement negotiations with the U.S. Justice Department over racial discrimination charges, officials with Adam's Mark Hotels & Resorts want to hire a national organization to evaluate their hiring practices and guest policies.
HBE Corp., which owns the 21-hotel chain, including one in Clearwater, announced Friday that Project Equality will conduct diversity training for its employees to ensure that guests are treated fairly. The Kansas City, Mo.-based firm also will examine the hotel's hiring practices.
Project Equality is a 35-year-old organization supported by a variety of religious, not-for-profit and private agencies. Adam's Mark is one of its corporate sponsors.
The independent review was voluntary and had nothing to do with a pending federal lawsuit, hotel officials said.
"We believe we have a good record on equality and diversity. (This is) so that we can improve on that record," said Sharon Harvey Davis, HBE's director of diversity. "We feel Project Equality gives us a good opportunity to do that." According to HBE, 27 percent of its managers are minorities.
Hotel officials also hope the diversity review will help lure back some of the business the chain has lost since the Justice Department filed suit in December, accusing the chain of systematically treating African-Americans disparagingly.
Those accusations came after a class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court against Adam's Mark in May. Guests who stayed at the Daytona Beach hotel during Black College Reunion last year and Florida's attorney general claim they were charged extra for rooms, ordered to wear orange neon wristbands and required to pay upfront for use of the minibar.
The company has since donated $50,000 to help pay for this year's Black College Reunion activities.
Since the chain's legal troubles, several groups -- including the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Human Rights Campaign and the federal Office of Personnel Management -- have canceled meetings at Adam's Mark hotels.
So far, Davis said, none have rebooked.