On June 19th the City Manager released her FY2016 budget. In that budget, the responsibility for hiring the federal, state, and electric utility lobbyists was transferred from the Mayor’s Office to the full City Commission.
The reason for the move was never explained. However, sources say the move was made to shield the Mayor from any decision on the contract because of his well documented relationship with Sean Pittman, one of the lobbyists.
The three-year lobbying contract is up for renewal in November 2015, and based on the move, the full City Commission would have a say in the details of the contract.
However, Tallahassee Reports has learned that despite the move of the responsibility for the contract to the City Commission, the Mayor’s Office has ensured that Sean Pittman will continue to benefit from the contract and there will be no competitive bid.
Here is what happened.
After the City Manager released her budget on June 16th, with the change in responsibility for the lobbying contract, Dustin Daniels, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, began inquiring about the lobbying contract.
On June 29,2015, thirteen days after the transfer of responsibility of the lobbyist contracts to the full City Commission was made public, Daniels sent an email to the City’s procurement department:
I am just reaching out to ask and see if you knew when our legislative contracts would need to be approved for a one-year extension (both federal and state). I want to make sure that if the extension requires Commission action, that we plan for plenty of time to get it on the agenda.
Daniels’ email indicates the Mayor’s office had already decided to extend the lobbyists contracts, even though the responsibility had been transferred to the City Commission. This also indicates the contracts would not be put out for a competitive bid.
TR has recently reported that the last bid process for the lobbying contract went to the highest bidder. You can see that report here.
Sometime in June, Daniels was told by procurement staff that if the contract was going to be put out for competitive bid, the procurement department would need to know in June to properly advertise to other vendors.
After relaying that information, it appears there was no further contact between Daniels and procurement officials about putting the lobbying contract out for bid.
On September 8th, Edwin Rodriguez in the city’s procurement department followed up with the following message to Daniels:
Also, if the decision is to not extend the Lobbying contracts and Procurement Services has to issue three new Request for Proposal solicitations, COT may be without contracts for these services until such time new contracts are executed. That’s why we had to ask in June 2015 if you wanted to extend or new RFPs. Let us know how we can assist. Thanks. –ED
Sources indicate the City Commission has not been asked to weigh in on any of the decisions relating to the lobbying contracts.
Daniels’, who called Sean Pittman a “friend & mentor” in August on social media, has also traveled with Pittman and Mayor Gillum on what Gillum labeled as non-city related trips.
Is it legal and/or ethical for Mayor Gillum and/or his office to approve a no-bid contract extension that will benefit a known business associate and “confidante”?
Did Dustin Daniels inform the Mayor about his communications with the procurement department in June? And if so, did Mayor Gillum sign off on not putting the contract out for bid?
Finally, why was the City Commission not involved with the final decision on the lobbying contracts given their new responsibilities?
TR will continue to investigate.