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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 15, 2010 7 years ago

County accused of bid rigging

by: Robin Roy City Editor

The citizens groups suing the county over baseball negotiations with the Baltimore Orioles are filing an amendment to the suit in which they accuse the county of bid rigging.

Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government
and Citizens for Sunshine claim the county allowed the company that eventually won a county contract to write some of the language of the Request for Proposal (RFP), which solicits bidders for county contracts.

“It shows a failure to attend to the process, which is meant to be objective,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Andrea Mogensen.

The two groups are already suing the county for allegedly holding negotiations with the Orioles outside the public law, which would violate Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

The amendment deals with the county’s desire to hire an owner’s representative, which would represent the county’s interests during the construction of the new Orioles stadium.

It had already hired Barrett Sports Group, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., to help facilitate the negotiations with the Orioles. On June 11, 2009, two months before the county began writing the RFP for the owner’s rep,

Dan Barrett, owner of Barrett Sports Group, sent the following e-mail to three executives from International Facilities Group, a facilities-management company from Chicago. “I have strongly recommended you guys to the county, and I have emphasized how important it is to have an owner’s rep in this project. The original owner’s representative language was added by me (with you guys in mind).”

On July 23, 2009, Deputy County Administrator Dave Bullock e-mailed Barrett to ask him to help find language for the owner’s rep RFP.

“We are getting ready to start procurement of owner’s agent. Any language as to qualifications of the agent would be helpful,” wrote Bullock.

Bullock told The Sarasota Observer that it is common for the county to ask for help in crafting the language of some RFPs, because county staff may not be experts in certain fields.

Two hours after receiving the request from Bullock, Barrett sent the following e-mail to Michael Reinsdorf, David Perez and Joe Briglia, all International Facilities Group executives: “I told the county I would get them some RFP language for owner’s rep services. Let me know if you have any examples. Also, let me know if you have any specific language or requirements that could be included in an RFP that would differentiate you guys from others.”

International Facilities Group won the county contract in September.

The county’s procurement code states that the county’s “business unit shall have no contact with potential or actual proposers and shall direct all communications regarding the RFP to procurement.”

Bullock said he was unaware of the exchange between Barrett and the company executives.

He said that county staff members did write the RFP themselves and reiterated that staff members often borrow language from RFPs in other jurisdictions to see what factors others have considered.

The county began writing the owner’s representative RFP in August, according to Bullock.

Barrett did not return phone calls seeking comment for the story.

The lawsuit against the county will go to trial June 28.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

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