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School Board Contractor Believes Bid Was Fixed

A little while back, I wrote about a $7 million project to renovate the football stadium and other athletic areas at Blanche Ely High School. The incredible thing about the award of the project to Balfour Beatty Construction was that the selection committee chose the firm despite the fact that it came in at $1.5 million and more over other proposals.

Well, one bidder for that job, Ron Boss of MBR Construction, went public yesterday with his belief that the bid had basically been rigged. MBR offered to do the job for $1.5 million cheaper but was passed over by the Qualification Selection Committee (remember, a QSEC, as they are known, is at the heart of the Beverly Gallagher corruption case). Boss addressed the Broward County School Board at the meeting yesterday and wondered how it could justify overspending so much during a time of "extraordinary budget cuts and startling headlines."  

"The word was on the street, out of the facilities department, that this job was Balfour Beatty's -- don't even bother proposing," Boss told the board during the meeting. "It's kind of like a little bit of a 'hello.'"

He also pointed out that his wife is a Broward kindergarten teacher who had been spending her own money on supplies while he watched the board throw away $1.5 million. The text of Boss' speech comes after the jump.   

We entered into the Blanche Ely qualification process with a team of Broward County high school sports veterans and our proposal covered the design proposal to the letter. The result of the selection committee process and this board's decision, however, was to award the contract to Balfour Beatty for $1.5 million above our price. It is important to emphasize that the two designs were identical excpect that Balfour Beatty's proposal included items not called for in the design criteria. That was something the bidders were warned not to do and technically renders their proposal non-responsive. After carefully reviewing the selection committee findings, we found a number of instances were elements of the evaluation process were votes and comments from committee members just were not accurate. Accordingly, we planned to protest and met with Michael Garretson, Denis Herrmann, and Claudia Munroe. We were informed that the ... next step was to meet with a panel of three other staff members who would consider reversing the decision. At that time, Denis volunteered, Denis Herrmann, that no panel has ever reversed a committe's decision, a statement I now believe to be untrue. Nevertheless, the process would be to hire an attorney, post a bond, tkae the protest to the state. From that meeting we concluded that award of the Balfour Beatty contract was a foregone conclusion. Protesting was throwing good time and money after bad, that the school board design build selection process is terribly flawed, that there is an obvious opportunities for inequities and influence in the process, that the school board had no problem in paying $1.5 million on the project unnecessarily. In these times of extraordinary budget cuts and startling headlines, there should be an independent review of the board's process and decision. ... I urge you to do the right thing. ... A few of my own personal comments, my wife is a school teacher in your system for 19 years. Every year I listen to her tell me how she dips into her pocket to supply supplies for her kindergarten class. And I can't quite understand how you're going to spend a million and half [extra]. The second thing was that when we got in this process, we've worked for you guys for a long time, .the word was on the street, out of the facilities department, this job is already Balfour Beatty's, don't even bother proposing. That's kind of like a little bit of a 'hello.' And the other thing was in the staff meeting I got a comment from Mr. Garretson who said, 'You know we're really happy. We had this job budgeted for $11 million. It came in at seven and we're ecstatic." And I'm not sure what's right with that kind of arithmetic.    

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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