Commission seeks formal probe of county bidding process
debate on awarding million-dollar contracts to minority firms has
prompted the Miami-Dade County Commission to authorize a formal review
of the county's bidding process.
voted unanimously Thursday for a countywide disparities study by the
county's inspector general that would probe whether double standards
come into play when the county manager recommends businesses for lucrative
report is due to the commission Sept. 7.
study halted once again a two-year effort to assign a $4.5 million
baggage-wrap service deal at Miami International Airport a
delay officials say costs the county $3,000 a day.
staffers initially planned to give out a single three-year contract
to handle all baggage wrapping to a company that had scored the most
evaluation points during bid-assessment hearings. But lobbyists argued
other firms should be allowed a chance to handle the service in at
least one of three designated zones at the airport.
heated debate and a provisional ordinance, representatives agreed
to grant a Black Business Enterprise firm responsibility for one of
Wrap of Miami Inc. an Hispanic-owned company that had been
awarded the most points was asked to cut Safe Bag of Florida,
a black-owned firm with the next highest points, a third share of
seemed ready for approval until County Manager Merrett Stierheim told
commissioners he received a memo highlighting improper service by
S&C Construction at the county's water and sewer department. S&C,
which he said had run up a $1.29 million bill, is owned by Clarence
Smith, who also runs Safe Bag of Florida.
Stierheim said he had "serious reservations about doing further
business with any company whose principal, operating as the principal
of another company, did not perform in accordance with published contract
his stance triggered a flurry of accusations.
county manager led a witch hunt and my client was falsely accused,"
said Robert Holland, a lobbyist for Mr. Smith. "His decision
holds back African-Americans and is another public lynching, without
the facts, that taints my client. This is a game to run him out of
Stierheim said rejecting Safe Bag had nothing to do with race.
this man is not being convicted," Commissioner Dorrin Rolle said,
"I don't think we ought to hold him accountable forever and a
day. If we're going to chop someone's neck off, I'd like to see it
across the board.
of the time when the hatchet falls," said Mr. Rolle, an African-American,
"it falls on folks who look like me."
have a serious problem," Mr. Stierheim said, "with the implication
of a double standard. As far as I'm concerned we do the process fairly.
It's not just selective enforcement."
Jimmy Morales, who initiated the motion for the disparities study,
said "these are things we've all heard about in whispers, but
yet are concerns in the community.
need to look at how minority businesses are treated in this city,"
Mr. Morales said. "It may cost us $3,000 a day, but we're not
ready to make a decision."
Dennis Moss said there is a huge problem in the community that goes
beyond the baggage-wrapping contract.
seems people here award contracts to minorities because they are forced
to do it," he said. "The private sector doesn't do it. We
should find out what happens outside the county with African-American
credibility of some people is in jeopardy because of a lot of innuendos,"
Commissioner Pedro Reboredo said. "We don't want to make the
process more cloudy."
the contract is awarded, three firms hired temporarily for the job
will continue to handle baggage wrapping at the airport.