SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — AT&T has been hit with a $325 million lawsuit that accuses it of refusing to pay a company and then stealing its business plan.
That business owner and many of his colleagues told Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes that one of the main reasons why this happened is because they’re Black owned.
Jerome Edmondson’s solutions company EDN was part of AT&T’s multibillion-dollar initiative to make sure more Black suppliers were working with the company.
His main focus was to help law enforcement get their hands on reliable technology to improve communication, which is key for any department.
The Department of Commerce demanded the type of new technology after the huge communication failure on 9/11 when first responders and law enforcement couldn’t reach each other because the technology failed.
Long before EDN became involved with AT&T, Edmondson had solid ties with the Department of Commerce and organizations like The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. So it seemed like a perfect fit, and the contracts were pouring in.
“A 16-year run with AT&T was an amazing run, but it wasn’t easy. I always saw these things happening, but I was afraid to say something,” Edmondson said.
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Former Monroe Police Chief Keith Glass was an EDN consultant who still doesn’t understand why AT&T allegedly breached their contract.
“It just looks like they were trying to cut him out the picture,” Glass said.
Glass said he watched AT&T refuse to pay Edmondson and EDN for the work they did and he said he watched them “steal their plan” and roll it out as their own.
Which is why EDN filed a lawsuit against AT&T for $325 million.
“Somewhere it got handled very wrong, and the kind of company and the kind of reputation AT&T has and wants to maintain, I would suggest to whoever – they figure it out – figure out why it did happen,” Edmundson said.
Edmondson and Glass believe it was racially motivated. They believe that a small branch of executives with AT&T singled them out because they were the only Black-owned company involved in the initiative.
AT&T didn’t contract out another Black company until Fernandes started asking questions about the lawsuit.
Days after Fernandes spoke to AT&T officials about the racial and breach of contract accusations, AT&T started looking for other Black companies to be involved in this multibillion-dollar initiative.
AT&T refused to do an on-camera interview with Fernandes, but an AT&T spokesman sent her a statement saying in part:
“These claims by the owner of EDN and his consultant are meritless and offensive. Any suggestion that race played a role in our decision to terminate this business relationship is just wrong and we will refute these claims in court.”
Glass said there is no other explanation.
“I mean you can’t help but think that. And that’s not something I want to think. It’s not something anyone in America should be wanting to think, but what else was it?” Glass said.
When Fernandes asked AT&T whether or not they paid the company what they owed them, officials would not answer that question.
They only thing they kept saying was none of this was based on race.