Heyman: companies with bad track records shouldn't be allowed to bid on county projects
By Risa Polansky
Companies with poor track records should be banned from bidding on Miami-Dade County contracts, Commissioner Sally Heyman says.
She suggested the county operate on a principle of "deal with those who have never presented problems" and plans to propose a measure keeping companies that have a history of violating county policies from attempting to do more business with the government.
"Why are we allowing these people to bid? They should be restricted," Ms. Heyman said in an interview. "We don't have to deal with trouble — it's not like we don't have other companies."
The move stems from a transit committee meeting this month during which staffers asked commissioners to approve two contracts with companies with troublesome histories.
Ms. Heyman said it was not the first time.
"We have a terrible practice of staying with what we're familiar with."
One contract would grant Horsepower Electric more than $4.5 million to refurbish the reversible lane control signal system along Northwest 199th Street.
But in 2005, the county banned Horsepower from bidding and being awarded contracts after the firm was indirectly involved in bribing a county employee, said Penelope Townsley, director of the Department of Small Business Development.
The ban expired in 2006 and the debarment was cleared. But the company has also been cited for violating small business development requirements.
The county agreed in February to allow the company to make up the $39,583 violation on a new contract for a South Miami-Dade busway project.
"We're giving them future business in which they're going to correct what they owe us… why aren't we doing business with people who haven't had violations?" Ms. Heyman said at the meeting. "This seems like improper reinforcement: if you mess up, we'll give you additional business and allow you to correct it there."
Public Works Director Esther Calas said the company was the lowest responsive bidder for the project.
The contractor is currently performing satisfactorily on another contract, county documents show, and of 14 public works contracts over the years, 10 received satisfactory — but not superior — ratings.
Still, Ms. Heyman said, "it sends a bad message" to continue working with them.
The county should cut ties with such companies "even if we have to pay a little more for integrity," she said.
Transit committee members voted to send the contract to the full commission without their recommendation.
The other contract Ms. Heyman questioned, which commissioners unanimously voted against, called for $24 million in road improvements along Northwest 74th Street.
The company, De Moya Group, has been cited for three violations and is challenging the county in citing them for one.
"This is someone who's suing us," Ms. Heyman said. "It's like we go with what's our comfort zone and will continue to do business with them even if they're violating… I have problems with it."
Ms. Townsley said staffers thought it appropriate to approve the contract as they worked toward resolving the issue. The company was also the lowest bidder for the project.
Documents show that all three past contracts with the public works department earned the company a "guarded performance" rating, 2.8 out of a possible 4, or "superior."
The county does have a policy of not awarding contracts to companies involved in lawsuits or open violations, but it doesn't seem to be enough, Ms. Heyman said in an interview.
"If it (the policy) is "don't do business with them,' then they shouldn't be able to apply," she said. "Why are we doing business with people who are problematic?"