The seal of Will County can be seen Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Will County Coroner's office in Joliet, Ill.
The seal of Will County can be seen Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at the Will County Coroner's office in Joliet, Ill.

Will County officials recently discussed the possibility of approving a study to examine any disparities in the county's hiring and contracting procedures.

Will County Executive Denise Winfrey said her office has been in talks with Colette Holt, a government and business consultant, who specializes in disparity studies and affirmative action contracting.

In a PowerPoint provided to the county, Holt said that disparity studies help local governments meet regulatory requirements and could help make administrative improvements with the use of data collection.

As an example, Winfrey said a study could be used to assess how well the county works with contractors participating in county business. She said something as simple as the county being slow to pay contractors for their work would cause a significant burden for smaller businesses.

Winfrey said these types of issues could be roadblocks for companies owned by women or people of color from doing business with the county. She argued it was important for the county to create a "level playing field" for any contractors, whether they're hired for a large construction project or simply providing cleaning services for the county.

County board members have previously voiced support for reevaluating how the county can provide opportunities for more diverse companies to participate in county business.

Holt suggested the county collect its own data on contracting, an idea Palmer said the executive's office supports.

He said Holt is also helping the county create a job description for a new officer who would act as the "internal quarterback" and oversee the disparity study and collect contracting data. Winfrey has previously expressed interest in hiring an officer dedicated to overseeing diversity and inclusion in county government.

"The challenge is doing it right and making it meaningful that we're building a strong foundation," Palmer said.

Winfrey said she'd like to see someone hired for that position by the end of the year.

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