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Front Page » Top Stories » Court Forces Transit Panel To Restart Search For Consultant

Court Forces Transit Panel To Restart Search For Consultant

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Written by on September 2, 2004

By Samantha Joseph
A court ruling striking down Miami-Dade’s County’s recruitment of minority- and women-owned businesses for public contracts will further delay the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust’s hiring of a financial consultant.

Weeks after the transportation watchdog group relaunched its search for an adviser to help oversee the county’s $17 billion transit-expansion fund, a federal court last month found some of the county’s recruitment methods unconstitutional.

An Aug. 20 ruling in favor of Hershell Gill Consulting Engineers Inc. bars the county from considering race, ethnicity and gender in awarding contracts.

The transportation trust’s invitation to bidders favored women-owned, black and Hispanic businesses, so the group now must postpone the search until it rewrites its request for proposals.

"The process will start over," said assistant county attorney Bruce Libhaber. It was unclear Tuesday when the trust would reinstate its invitation to prospective consultants.

"From a legal standpoint, the only thing that needs to be done is to remove that language and reissue that advertisement," Mr. Libhaber said.

The financial adviser’s job is to pay up to $500,000. It is one of several public solicitations delayed by the ruling county officials say could affect about $4 million worth of contracts.

Meanwhile, the transportation trust still is trying to fill two board vacancies.

Hermino Lorenzo resigned from the group’s board of trustees last month when he became the county’s fire chief.

His departure was the second since May, when the trust’s former chairman, John Cosgrove, resigned after allegations that he used the position to improperly lobby county officials.

The trust now has no representatives from Districts 8 and 13, but trust officials say the empty posts have not hurt the group’s performance.

"We’ve had quorum at all of our meetings, so action has always been taken. There hasn’t been any item delayed because of quorum issues," said Virginia Diaz, division director of external affairs. "Furthermore, the trust sees the county as a complete region, not just separate parts, so members look at all districts even though they’re not directly responsible for them."

Still, the transportation trust has had a full roster of board members for only about a month since its creation in 2003. As approved by voters in a countywide referendum, the board is required to have 15 trustees.

The group unsuccessfully attempted in June to recruit a replacement for Mr. Cosgrove. The effort yielded 17 applicants, but the trust has decided to accept more applications Sept. 6-Oct. 6 while it launches a search for Mr. Lorenzo’s replacement.

The trust is encouraging applications for all positions on its board, Ms. Diaz said, even though only two are vacant. The plan is to create a list of potential board members who could quickly replace outgoing ones.

"We just want to be prepared," Ms. Diaz said. "What we don’t want to do is find ourselves (short) should a vacancy arise."

Since June, the group has collected applications from about 70 people, she said.

Application forms are available on the trust’s Web site, www.trafficrelief.com.

The next meeting of the trust is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 30 at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Drive.Details: (305) 375-3481

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