Friday, March 07, 2014

"Let the Public Be Damned?" -- City of St. Augustine Beach Staff Attempts No-Bid Contracting Procedures for Telecommunications

St. Augustine Beach City Hall denizens have a curious way of dealing with Open Records requests, made under Article I Section 24 of the Florida Constitution.
They retaliate for First Amendment protected activity. They invent and attempt to charge fees, instead of providing documents that should be placed on their website now.
Background:
Monday night, St. Augustine Beach Police Chief ROBERT HARDWICK wanted to spend some $125,000 on a new telephone system without oompetititive bidding, without a spreadsheet, and without staff analysis.
HARDWICK gave unlimited time to a salesman from WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS, a $6 billion multinational corporation.
The matter was not on the printed, published agenda.
The matter was not in the agenda packet on the City's website in PDF format.
There were no handouts, except from the WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS salesman (and only to Commissioners and to me, not the rest of the public).
Incredibly, SABPD CHIEF HARDWICK, St. Augustine City Manager MAX ROYLE, Finance Director MELISSA BURNS and Deputy Clerk CATHY BENSON allowed a mere salesman to alter the agenda and to make a ten minute sales pitch to City Commission, putting it on the agenda at the last minute before the meeting began.
Is this "Amateur Hour?"
Or shall we call it "The Sleaze Factor?"
St. Augustine Beach Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS seemed in a hurry. SAMUELS seemed annoyed that there were public comment on it.
SAMUELS seemed annoyed that her fellow Commissioners wanted to postpone it.
SAMUELS seems generally annoyed, much of the time.
Why?
It's our money.
"The whole world is watching."
Thanks to the corruption and coverups of our maladroit St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA et al. -- reported in the New York Times, PBS Frontline and soon CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and HLN's Nancy Grace -- our community is on the world stage now.
The whole world is watching us and what we do.
Are we afraid?
Do we cower to power?
Do we remain silent in the face of oppression and corruption?
Or do we stand up to bullies?
Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR colluded with St. Augustine Beach Commissioners 2010-2011 to take over SABPD in retaliation for First Amendment protected activity by ten ethical SABPD officers.
SAPBD officers reported concerns about SABPD.
This is protected activity under the First Amendment.
St. Augustine Beach Commissioners ANDREA SAMUELS, RICHARD O'BRIEN and SNODGRASS showed animus, and SAMUELS actually said the Beach Police had been "politicized" and needed to be fired, and taken over by the County's political boss, Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, fk/k/a "DAVID BERNARD HOAR."
Then-Mayor SHERMAN GARY SNODGRASS actually proposed "impact negotiations."
The public was opposed.
So were Commissioners Undine Pawlowski and Brud Helhoski.
Then Commission dropped the idea, with Commissioner SNODGRASS listening to reason and changing his mind.
Then, last year ROBERT HARDWICK, former Chief Investigator for State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA, was named Police Chief.
Apparently SHERIFF DAVID BERNARD SHOAR's puppet and heir apparent, Chief ROBERT HARDWICK is the politial machine's likely candidate to replace Sheriff DAVID SHOAR.
This could happen any time by appointment of the Governor of Florida (e.g, after SHOAR's retirement, resignation, indictment and/or suspension by the Governor of Flordia pursuant to Article IV, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution).
CHIEF ROBERT HARDWICK wrote Sheriff SHOAR last year in an E-mail, "That's why I love you." (After SHOAR agreed to appear at a fete for FBI Academy graduates).
The resemblance and conscious paralelism betwen SHOAR's practices and HARDWICK's practices is alarming, and it is growing.
Consider the strange romance between Chief HARDWICK and two multibillion dollar corporations -- AMERICAN TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS, INC. (ATS) and WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS, INC.
First Chief HARDWICK proposed redlight cameras, which citizens (including longtime corporate purchasing manager Mr. Robert Koehler and I) opposed.
After attending a police convention and talking to a salesman, Chief HARDWICK brought in a corporate salesman for AMERICAN TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS (ATS), a controversial redlight camera company (half-owned by GOLDMAN SACHS) to speak to the issue, speaking to City Commissioners.
Incredible.
Irresponsible.
Then Chief HARDWICK wanted a new phone system.
The old phone system needs replacing.
But requirements have not been defined.
Homework has not been done.
Analysis has not been provided.
Spreadsheets have not been prepared.
The City Commissioners and citizens have been kept in the dark.
Without prior public notice, on March 3, Chief HARDWICK brought in a WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS salesman to speak to the issue.
Government purchasing decisions should not be based on winging it, on last-minute quick and dirty quote-seeking, on no-bid contracts or impulse buying (like the Pentagon).
Chief HARDWICK has now twice let salesmen hornswoggle him into putting them on the agenda of the St. Augustine Beach Commission.
It is an appearance of impropriety.
Why?
The proposal from WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS refers to a "negotiation."
No documents on such "negotiations" have been supplied.
Who "negotiated?"
E-mails show that several unsealed proposals were sent to Chief HARDWICK.
City Manager MAX ROYLE points out that "Chief HARDWICK does not work for me."
But is MAX ROYLE working for Chief HARDWICK?
No-bid contracts.
Secret negotiations.
No transprency.
No clear definition of requirements -- askng vendors to tell SAB what it needs.
No RFP or RFQ.
Nothing on the City's website.
Possible Sunshine/Open Records violations.
A snooty staff with a "let the public be damned" attitude worthy of Robber Barons like Cornelius Vanderbilt.
This subtle corruption of our government by giant corporations like WINDSTREAM COMMUNICATIONS is indefensible, and must be ended at once.
No corporate board of directors worth its pay would ever let staffers subject them to a salesman's sales pitch at their board meetings.
No government should engage in no-bid contracting and let staff subject them to a sales pitch at board meetings.
No purchasing decisions should be made without thorough research and analysis, and spread sheets.
SAB's lack of due diligence is akin to Amateur Hour.
It is unseemly.
It is an appearance of impropriety.
Competition is the most fundamental economic policy of our government, dating back to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 (made necessary because of the monopolistic conspiratorial depredations of JOHN DAVIDSON ROCKEFELLER and HENRY MORRISON FLAGLER).
Unimpressed by no-bid contracts, our elected officials, Monday night, said "No."
Unimpressed, unbullied and unbossed by Chief HARDWICK, St. Augustine Beach Commissioners unanimously voted March 3rd -- they rightly postponed any consideration of a no-bid $125,000, five-year telecommunications contract with WINDSTREAM.
There must be accountability for such amateurish staff work.
There must be accountability for government incompetence, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, waste, fraud, abuse, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.
The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFLEA) is being asked to accredit SABPD. It must examine this incident, and the redlight camera debacle, with a gimlet eye.
It's our money.
There must be full compliance with purhasing procedures and the reasonable expectations of probity.
No one had a copy of SAB's purchasing policy at Monday's meeting. Why?
No purchases over $10,000 may be made without competitive bidding.
No ifs, ands or buts.
It needs to be read, re-read, complied with and revised if it allows such an abuse of power.
Longtime private sector purchasing manager Robert Koehler and I objected to the City's crass procedures, and rightfully so.
The next day, I requested the pertinent documents, which had been withheld from City Commissioners nad the public, not included in the agenda packet.
St. Augustine Beach bureaucrats reacted derisively.
They are still dragging their feet, attempting to charge fees for documents that should have been disclosed to Commissioners and the public.
I wear their scorn as a badge of honor.
This is "Amateur Hour" -- St. Augustine Beach was long run as a fiefdom (or "Barney Fifedom") under Mayor Pacetti. Is that happening again now?
Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS has already depared from tradition. Under Mayor S. GARY SNODGRASS, the City Manager was asked to answer citizen questions after public comment was over.
Not any longer.
Not at all.
Why?
How gauche.
How undemocratic.
How dictatorial.
And in response to my request to share all documents with the public and with me in PDFs, Deputy Clerk Cathy Benson wrote in an unkind, uncouth E-mail message:
"As you are well aware, state statutes allow us to charge $0.15 per page, and also for our time (sic).
We are only required to provide you the info in its current format. We are not required to scan to PDFs for your convenence.
You certainly do have a right to know but you do not have a right to dictate extraordianary terms."
Dictate extraoradinary terms?
Sounds like what SABPD CHIEF ROBERT HARDWICK was doing Monday -- asking for transparency concerning 1/8 of a million dollars that staff expected Commissioners expected to rubberstamp willy-nilly, at the drop of a hat, hesto presto, without any backup material, and without even placing it on the agenda?
We expect better from our governments.
NOW.
The people of the State of Florida enacted our Sunshine and Open Records laws.
Article I, Section 24 of our Florida Constitution was enacted by vote of 3.8 million people -- 83%.
There are more of us than there are of them.
SAB must come clean with the public and place all records on this misbegotten contracting process on their website. NOW. SAB must to listen to Mr. Koehler, and other citizens. SAB must stop, look, listen, research, define write a proper list of requirements, publish an RFP, receive sealed bids, and not have any further repetition of the authoritarian, hierarchical "Amateur Hour" tactics seen there this week.
What do you reckon?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Slavin. Please get a dictionary.
gim·let
╦łgimlit/
noun
noun: gimlet; plural noun: gimlets

1.
a small T-shaped tool with a screw-tip for boring holes.
2.
a cocktail of gin (or sometimes vodka) and lime juice.

Ed Slavin said...

You are obviously unaware of the other meanings of gimlet, having never read Wm. F. Buckley, Jr. as a child, and evidently not appreciating the nature of idiomatic English. Thanks for reading, Chief Hardwick.