Miami-Dade County lobbying decision leaves Cardenas Partners out in the cold
By Ashley Hopkins
After months of setbacks, the Miami-Dade County Commission moved Tuesday to accept County Manager George Burgess's recommendation to award federal lobbying contracts to four firms instead of three, a move that will require that the county spend $150,000 that was to be set aside for related work orders and optional services.
During last year's solicitation process, the commission moved to award governmental consulting contracts to Alcalde & Fay, based in Arlington, VA; Patton Boggs, based in Washington, DC: and Greenberg Traurig, based in Miami. The firms would provide Miami-Dade with representation and governmental consulting services before the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.
Last June 10 the award recommendation went before the commission's Health, Public Safety & Intergovernmental Committee. As rankings were close, the committee requested that the fourth (Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson, based in Orlando) and fifth (Cardenas Partners, based in Tallahassee) ranked firms also receive contracts.
The original award recommendation allocated $720,000 annually, amounting to $190,000 per contract per year, with an additional $150,000 reserved for any additional lobbying services. According to Victoria Mallette, county communications director, Mr. Burgess recommended negotiating a contract with Akerman for the additional $150,000.
When the item came back before the commission in December the body decided to hold off on new contracts until it had a better idea of how changing political climates would affect the county. On Feb. 1 the commission moved to extend current agreements for up to three months.
Tuesday, however, the commission expressed concern over the series of setbacks. As the Port of Miami deep dredging project failed to make it into President Barack Obama's federal budget, many were worried that further delays would cause projects to fall by the wayside.
"Something is not working," Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said, adding that the dredging is too important for the county to get caught up in lobbying delays. "Let's move and let's approve so [lobbyists] know they have a contract…We need to move and make a decision."
Barbara Jordan agreed, saying that commission stalls were "hurting [Miami-Dade's] position in Washington."
Lynda Bell moved that the commission reject all bid waivers and reissue requests for proposals under a new scope but couldn't secure a second out of commission concerns that rebidding would further delay the selection process. As Miriam Singer, director of procurement management, said that the re-bidding process could take six or seven months, the commission didn't support the motion.
While Ms. Bell said she didn't think the bidding process should take more than three months, she withdrew her first motion and asked that the commission award contracts to the top three vendors recommended.
Fellow commissioners, however, were concerned that Akerman and Cardenas would not receive contracts.
Jose "Pepe" Diaz said that as all firms have "done an outstanding job" while working side-by-side with the county, he didn't feel comfortable making cuts.
"The idea here is to make things happen," he said, adding that the cut could be a disservice to the county. "There's too much at stake. There's too much money at stake. There's too much future at stake."
Ms. Bell amended her motion to accept the county manager's recommendation when a straw vote revealed that the commission wouldn't support the cut. While Carlos Gimenez asked that the commission accept all five firms, set targeted projects for each to work on and receive "the biggest bang for the buck," Mr. Martinez supported Ms. Bell's proposal.
Mr. Martinez moved that the commission accept the manager's recommendation to award contracts to the top four, with Ackerman receiving a $150,000 contract.
While Mr. Diaz and Ms. Sosa said they were worried that the commission was moving forward with three firms that were connected to the Democratic Party and cutting the only firm with Republican ties, Cardenas, the commission accepted the recommendation with an amendment that would allow the commission to evaluate the firms at the end of the year. Renewal contracts would come back to the full commission for approval.
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