Decision against Washington Informer's eligibility to carry city's ads
(November 8, 2012) The Office of the Chief Financial Officer has agreed
to recognize The Washington Informer as a newspaper of general
circulation. The designation was spelled out in a settlement agreement
that ends the Informer's legal challenge against the OCFO which
disqualified the newspaper from bidding on the Unclaimed Properties
advertisement because it "serves a certain ethnic group."
In an earlier email to The Informer, Joseph Giddis, director of the D.C.
Office of Contracts, said the newspaper was not qualified for the
contract to publish ads for unclaimed property because it "serves a
specific ethnic group" and therefore "does not meet the requirement of a
newspaper of general circulation." D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray called the
Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes and Attorney Johnny
Barnes made the announcement at a press conference held Monday, November
5, 2012 in front of One Judiciary Square, 441 Fourth Street, N.W.
Supporters of The Washington Informer were on hand to express their
support for the settlement agreement that declares the Informer a
general circulation newspaper and for costs related to preparing for the
bid and appeal expenses.
"I am pleased with the OCFO's decision," said Washington Informer
Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes, "but I am still baffled by the
unwarranted decision which got us here in the first place and its
negative implications. However, this settlement is not only a win for
The Washington Informer, but it will apply to every DC-based newspaper
that is a Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) or that serves a target
market. That was our purpose for appealing this decision."
Since 1981, The Washington Informer has published for the District of
Columbia Government various advertisements including the Unclaimed
Property Advertisements. It has also published the Tax Sale
Advertisement. In September 2009, the Washington Informer published the
Unclaimed Property Advertisement and as recently as June 2011, it
published the Tax Sale Advertisement.
Attorney Johnny Barnes, who represented The Washington Informer in its
protest against the District, called the earlier decision a "subjective
judgment wholly inconsistent with the plain language of the governing
statute." At a press conference held three months ago with Washington
Informer supporters, Barnes said, "In fact, because the decision has as
its foundation the mistaken view that the Washington Informer Newspaper
‘serves a specific ethnic group,' the decision could be regarded as
discriminatory under the District of Columbia's Human Rights Law."
In June, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Contracts
issued a solicitation bid for the publication of the city's unclaimed
property listing to "a newspaper of general circulation" that is "widely
distributed in the District of Columbia." The Washington Informer
responded along with The Washington Times, Washington Post and
The $30,000 contract was awarded to The Washington Times.
Rolark-Barnes was informed by email that, "The Washington Informer was
found non-responsive based on the fact that the Washington Informer
serves a specific ethnic group. It is our view that targeting a specific
ethnic group does not meet the requirement of a newspaper of general
circulation," wrote OCFO contactor Joseph Giddis.
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