Tallahassee Reports has learned a company that employs Rich Buss, the brother-in law of City Commissioner Nancy Miller, has been paid $393,000 over the last three years by a city department that employees commissioner Miller’s husband and Rich Buss’s brother, John Buss.
The majority of the money was for a stormwater project in the Market District near Maclay Commerce Road in the northeast part of town.
The web of connections between Commissioner Miller, the Buss family, and the City of Tallahassee raises questions about insider dealings.
In 2011, the City Commission adopted the “Market District Action Plan” with a vision of fostering a unique ‘sense of place’ in the Market District area. During development of the Action Plan, re-purposing of the existing stormwater ponds in the center of the Market District was identified as a top priority.
In 2011 DPB & Associates registered with the state of Florida with a place of business address at 421 West Georgia Street, Tallahassee.
A search of state records shows that Rich Buss has been a registered engineer of DPB & Associates since 12/02/2011.
Interestingly, the 421 West Georgia Street address is the same address of the Big Bend Community Development Corporation (BBCDC) which is a non-profit corporation with significant ties to the City of Tallahassee.
In 2016, the City of Tallahassee released an audit of the organization which documented as of September 2016 the organization had failed to make any payments on city of Tallahassee loans totaling $1,275,000. Some of the loans were first originated in 2002.
The audit also found that the executive director of the BBCDC from 2012-2016, Tom Lewis, hired his daughter to help administer BBCDC activities funded by City CDBG funds.
And this is where it gets interesting.
The Executive Director of the BBCDC, Mr. Lewis, is also listed as the managing member of DPB & Associates. Mr. Lewis is a former employee of the city of Tallahassee who retired as Economic and Community Development Director in 2012.
The online check book for the City of Tallahassee shows that DPB & Associates has been paid $393,154 over the last three years. With the latest payment being $126,361 in March, 2017.
Public records show that the last two times the “Market District Action Plan” came before the city commission, Commissioner Miller’s husband and Rich Buss’s brother, John Buss, was the city employee listed as the information contact.
TR could not find anywhere in city commission agenda items where the work was put out for a bid or awarded to DPB & Associates.
A phone call to the city department handling the project would not provide any information about the bidding process.
Why is DPB & Associates, a for profit company, listing a non-profit company address as their place of business?
Does the connection between the City of Tallahassee, the BBCDC, and the awarding a contract to DPB & Associates violate any city policies?
And finally, was the project competitively bid? If not, what was the process for awarding this lucrative contract?
TR will continue to investigate.