BY BUDDY NEVINS
Fort Lauderdale was slammed for “misconduct” and “violations” of state law in awarding a $32 million contract to a client represented by two of the city’s most plugged-in lobbyists.
The withering report by the Office of the Inspector General stated that investigators found widespread “deficiencies” in the award of a $32 million contract for the design and construction of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex on the beach.
The lobbyists on the project for the builder Recreational Design and Construction: Neil Sterling and Jim Blosser.
The OIG launched the investigation in November amid allegations of favoritism because the city considered only the proposal from Sterling and Blosser’s client.
No favoritism was found, according to the OIG report.
Sterling, a former School Board member, made a career of lobbying in school headquarters until he stopped in the wake of corruption scandals involving some of the elected members he backed. He is now a fixture in City Hall.
Blosser is best known for his association with entrepreneur H. Wayne Huizenga.
The project includes an overhaul of the swimming Hall of Fame, renovation of the Olympic-style swimming pool and construction of a new pool.
The OIG report found:
“The OIG investigation found that the City of Fort Lauderdale engaged in misconduct when it awarded a $32 million contract for the design and construction of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex. Specifically, we determined that the City conducted an inadequate procurement and legal review process which resulted in a violation of Florida Statute § 287.055, the award of a non-responsive contract, and other deficiencies. Those deficiencies included the fact that the City Commission was told the contract contained language that was never, in fact, incorporated, and the contract also allocated $60,027 for unidentified costs. Most significantly, the City agreed to a provision in the contract that shielded $1.66 million of reimbursable labor costs from audit, which would have prevented the City from determining if it was being overbilled for the vendor’s supervisory and administrative labor costs….Although the OIG appreciates the City’s cooperation throughout the investigation, we remain concerned that the City persists in ignoring the explicit requirements of the statute. Thus, the OIG will continue to monitor future solicitations involving design-build projects and work with the City to ensure proper application of the statute.”
My question is how the two lawyers on the commission — Mayor Jack Seiler and Commissioner Romney Rogers — missed this one?