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Mayor Sharon Weston Broome addresses her committee to recommend finalists for the BRPD chief during its first organizational meeting Thursday.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome issued an order Monday for East Baton Rouge Parish to conduct a disparity study that examines whether minorities, women and veterans are being excluded from City Hall business, but the Metro Council will have to sign on for the project to move forward.

Broome had campaigned on the issue, saying she wanted the parish government to provide more contracting opportunities for businesses owned by women and minorities. Veteran-owned businesses also would be included in the disparity study, which officials expect will cost $300,000.

While discussed throughout the years, the idea of Baton Rouge doing a disparity study came up again in September when Broome tried to place her Better Transportation and Roads tax on the ballot.

Though Broome lacked the Metro Council's support to get the tax on the ballot, Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis asked the mayor at that meeting to commit to a study to ensure that minority- and women-owned businesses would have a chance to work on the roads projects. Broome agreed.

The Metro Council passed a resolution in 2009 that listed a goal of awarding 25 percent of city-parish contracts to disadvantaged business enterprises. But Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson told the Metro Council during its September meeting that the city-parish could not mandate the requirements for bids until it had conducted a disparity study, which Batson called "fairly expensive and time-consuming."

City Hall's purchasing and finance departments are drafting a request for proposals for firms to conduct the study, according to Broome's spokeswoman Janene Tate.

She said the study is expected to cost $300,000 — a threshold that requires Metro Council approval. The money is anticipated to come from a budget surplus, Tate said.

"Everyone should have equal opportunities to build and grow successful businesses in the place they call home," Broome said in a statement Monday, announcing her executive order. "These businesses add to our economic development, and a diverse array of business owners creates a more welcoming, progressive city for both current and future residents.”

The disparity study could start in early 2018, according to the executive order.

The executive order also calls on City Hall's department heads to update their purchasing and contracting policies and to propose steps to increase the number of businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans that work with their departments. They will be required to participate in outreach events for those businesses, and they are being asked to expand training and mentoring programs for those types of businesses.

Department heads are expected to report to Broome on their progress twice a year.

Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​