The Tallahassee City Commission voted 4-0 to re-bid a $2.6 million contract award, based in part, on a bid protest filed by DPB & Associates – a company affiliated with a family member of City Commissioner Nancy Miller. The vote comes despite the fact that the bid protest was reviewed and dismissed by City Attorney Lew Shelley.
Also, a recent audit by the City of Tallahassee found an appearance of conflict related to DPB & Associates’ business relationship with the City of Tallahassee.
The contract award was for the design of the Market District Multi-Purpose Stormwater Project.
When questioned about the bid process, current City Attorney Cassandra Jackson, who presided over the city commission meeting, told elected officials that changes to the bid process were made in an attempt to ensure we would “have no appearance of impropriety” since there were family connections involved.
Before the vote was taken, City Commissioner Nancy Miller announced she would recuse herself based on the fact that “the appearance of a conflict is there because I have a relative that is affected….”
Despite pleas from Mayor Gillum not to make any comments about the issue after announcing her recusal, Miller made a parting comment. Referring to a city staffer, Miller told City Commissioners, “He needs to tell you who he works for because the criteria did not work.”
After Miller left the meeting, a brief discussion ensued and City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, citing concerns about the bid process, made a motion to re-bid the contract. The motion passed 4-0.
Staff did inform city commissioners that a re-bid could possibly result in additional bid protests which could potentially delay the project.
The Bid Protest
City Attorney Shelley’s response to DPB’s assertion that they were discouraged by city staff to participate in the bid.
“Although the representatives of DPB clearly believed they were being discouraged from pursuing Phase III of this project as a primary contractor, there is no evidence that the City affirmatively prevented DPB from doing so. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, there is no evidence that DPB had any concerns about pursing this project as a sub-contractor until after the results were determined. Surely DPB could have noted somewhere, in some fashion, that it intended to be a primary contractor “but for” the suggestions by the City. By raising its concerns for the first time now, it reeks of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking”. On balance, it is equally likely, as Genesis pointed out at the hearing, that DPB made a business decision that it now regrets. This is not grounds to overturn an award recommendation.”
City Attorney Shelley’s response to DPB’s assertion that Reese Goad’s decision to change selection committee were biased.
When the totality of the circumstances surrounding this particular RFP are evaluated on the whole, I find Mr. Goad’s actions were perfectly reasonable. I also fail to see how changing committee members created prejudice against any vendor (or potential vendor).
City Attorney Shelley’s response to DPB’s assertion that a selection committee member was biased.
I have not been presented with any evidence to suggest the foundation of such a bias, and there is simply nothing other than speculation as to what the “original” committee members may have scored the various vendors. In fact, the notion that the scores for DPB would have been higher if employees of Mr. Buss were on the
committee is the exact appearance of bias City Management was trying to avoid.