Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Help Me Howard: Opa-Locka Contract
Here is a simple question. You are a city commissioner. One person offers to mow the grass for one price. Another offers to mow it for a much larger price. Which one would you hire? It's not the logical answer, which is why we bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- For some of us, mowing grass is a pain in the neck. Patrick McFarlane likes it.
Patrick McFarlane of McFamily Enterprises: "I enjoy it, because the more I do it, the more I get to love it."
He enjoys it so much, he turned it into a career, opening a company called McFamily Enterprises to do landscape work for businesses and governments.
One of the cities he wanted to mow for: the city of Opa-Locka.
Commissioner: "Based on the qualifications of four companies, the company that received the highest score is McFamily."
The city staff recommended that Patrick's company get the contract. Then, the Opa-Locka commissioners started talking.
Commissioner: "The manager has made a recommendation which I'm not going to support."
Opa-Locka commissioners saw that Patrick's company had bid $198,000. Another company called Road Runner: $240,000. Guess who they gave the contract to?
Commissioner: "I'm recommending Road Runner."
The company charging $42,000 more than Patrick got the job.
Patrick McFarlane: "Something is going on. I don't know what's going on inside there."
Patrick is a tough businessman. He asked questions but got no answers from city hall.
Patrick McFarlane: "I believe it not fair for what happened. That's why I called you."
Government agencies are cutting corners everywhere, but in Opa-Locka, the city staff recommended that Patrick get the mowing contract. But they gave it to another company charging $42,000 more than Patrick. So Howard, can city commissioners legally spend more to pick someone else?
Howard Finkelstein: "The city is required to do what is best for the taxpayers. And in most cases, paying $42,000 less to mow grass seems like a simple decision. However, in some cases, if the commissioners have a good reason, like reliability or a track record, they can chose the higher bidder."
We then asked to speak to the commissioner who chose to ignore the staff recommendation and instead voted for the company charging much more than Patrick. But the interim city manager said he would do the talking for Opa-Locka.
Interim City Manager Bryan Finnie: "You've got to be very, I would say, wise, diligent. You have a fiduciary responsibility, and you just don't take the lowest price."
But Finnie's own staff recommended that the city take Patrick's lower priced bid. And even though he wanted to be the spokesman for the commissioners, he could not explain why they decided to pick the higher priced company.
Bryan Finnie: "It's a lawn cutting contract. I'm not spending time on a lawn cutting contract. Trust me, I have a sewer system I have to rebuild that costs $30 million or $40 million. I'm not worried about a lawn cutting contract."
He is not worried about it, but Howard says if anyone in a city thinks commissioners are wasting tax dollars, they have options.
Howard Finkelstein: "If you think a government body is acting improperly in Dade County , you can file a complaint with the County Ethics Board. If you see a problem in Broward, contact the Florida Commission on Ethics."
Patrick says he won't file a formal complaint, but says he hopes his city officials realize people are paying attention to what they do.
Patrick McFarlane: "It is politics. It is politics. I don't think it's fair.
Patrick Fraser: "Now if you think you might have proof a politician did something that even a first grader knows is wrong, report it. Turn them in. It's your tax money being wasted. And if you don't trust the government, call us. We would love to investigate them."
Your worries growing like weeds? Is the solution lawn overdue? Contact us. That will mow-tivate us to cut down your concerns.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Commission on Ethics
Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com