The day before an audit of the county’s maligned procurement policies is to be presented to the County Commission, a citizen group is asking an audit of the suspicious process of awarding spring-training contracts be redone.
Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government believe the audit, conducted by Sarasota County Clerk of Courts Karen Rushing, did not go deep enough in examining the relationship between the winning bidders of two baseball-related contracts and top county officials, including current Deputy County Administrator Dave Bullock and former Director of Community Services Larry Arnold, who was laid off three weeks ago.
The group’s leader, Cathy Antunes, said the March arrest of Rodney Jones, a county employee who allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for awarding county contracts, reignited her interest in seeing changes in county government.
“There’s an obvious problem in procurement and a failure of checks and balances,” she said.
Antunes is critical of the audit that found no wrongdoing into the awarding of contracts to Barrett Sports Group, which was chosen to facilitate negotiations with the Boston Red Sox, and IFG, the company selected as an owner’s representative during talks with the Baltimore Orioles.
Some of her criticisms of that process that awarded those contracts include:
• Allowing a county employee to stay on the committee that voted for the IFG contract, after it was discovered he had a personal relationship with its owner.
• Knowingly using language that came directly from IFG in the contract on which IFG itself was bidding.
• Allowing IFG to craft job requirements that none of the other bidders could match.
In asking for another audit, Antunes said her goal is to hold county government, and its top officials, accountable for their actions.
“We’re hoping that this will make an impact,” she said. “There’s a cultural problem in county government.”
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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