ST. LOUIS — Four companies whose owners claim Native American ancestry have sued St. Louis, the airport authority and officials, claiming that the companies were improperly decertified as minority contractors.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, seeks monetary damages and a judge’s order that would reverse the city’s decision. It was filed on behalf of Premier Demolition Inc., CCI Environmental Inc., Global Environmental Inc. and D.W. Mertzke Excavating and Trucking Inc. Their lawyer, Matt Ghio, had vowed to sue this summer after the city’s action.
Airport spokesman Jeff Lea told the Post-Dispatch at the time that the company owners aren’t affiliated with a tribe recognized by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Lea said officials examined the issue after being contacted by the Los Angeles Times, which published an investigation in June saying that more than $300 million in government contracts had been awarded to businesses that made questionable claims of Native American ties.
Ghio, and the lawsuit, say that the city’s rules are unconstitutional because they treat Native Americans differently than members of other minority groups by requiring qualifications for membership.
The suit says that all four company owners trace their roots to the Northern Cherokee Nation, members of which came to the Cape Girardeau area in 1721 and later settled in other areas.
In the short term, the lawsuit is likely to have little effect. City Counselor Julian Bush told the Post-Dispatch this summer that the city would not enforce the decertification while a court challenge is pending.