Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hillsborough County and the Parsons Brinckherhoff Mercenary Force

We previously posted about Hillsborough County awarding Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) a $900K contract via a no-bid process here, herehere and here.  As stated before, PB is a well-known mercenary force for their political prowess to push local ballot initiatives through the political system. 

Since September when we first learned the county was going to give the transportation work for the Policy Leadership Group to Parsons Brinckerhoff, numerous attempts were made to get information about the PB contract. Attempts to get specific information about the contract were made through public records requests, emails and phone calls.  I did receive some documents via email but it took a meeting at County Center to confirm what was really going on regarding the PB contract.  

Some light needs to be shone on how this contract was awarded and being managed.

Let's start to connect the dots. Back in June, the county commissioners approved the two year renewal of general engineering services contracts for a number of engineering firms, including Parsons Brinckerhoff. These contracts were selected through a Consultant's Competitive Negotiations ACT (CCNA) that uses a scoring process.
Parsons Brinckerhoff general engineering services
contract renewed
The contract can be found here. The contract has a $4 million cap with a work order limit of $500K. 

The Hillsborough County Transportation Policy Leadership Group voted on August 12 to hire a "transportation expert" to perform public outreach and engagement. The Policy Leadership Group specifically stated they did not want a PR firm to do this work. 

In September, the news was the county had decided to hand PB a no-bid contract to do the public engagement but no details were provided.

At the October 12 Policy Leadership Group meeting, the news was the county was awarding PB a $900K no-bid contract broken down as follows: $400K for some technical analysis to revalidate cost estimates for the $12 Billion laundry list of identified transportation projects and $500K for public engagement and to write a county transportation plan. The FY2015 budget has $500K allocated for transportation planning but no one knows where the additional $400K awarded PB is coming from.

The public engagement and outreach work to write a county transportation plan does not belong under a general engineering services contract. Public engagement and outreach for an entire county transportation plan is not engineering services. This work is "supposedly" to  engage the public on an overall transportation plan. It's not to receive public input regarding specific projects(s) that are approved and going to get underway.
In addition, according to Florida Statute 278.055 regarding "Acquisition of professional architectural, engineering, landscape architectural, or surveying and mapping services"
COMPETITIVE SELECTION.—(a) For each proposed project, the agency shall evaluate current statements of qualifications and performance data on file with the agency, together with those that may be submitted by other firms regarding the proposed project, and shall conduct discussions with, and may require public presentations by, no fewer than three firms regarding their qualifications, approach to the project, and ability to furnish the required services.
(b) The agency shall select in order of preference no fewer than three firms deemed to be the most highly qualified to perform the required services.
Instead of going through an open, transparent bid process to award work for one of the highest priorities in the county, the county used a Direct Select process to go around any open bid process. Below is the memo selecting PB. It appears the ONLY requirement to meet was doing work for successful transportation referendum initiatives elsewhere.
Memo selecting PB through Direct Select
As highlighted on the memo, the county awarded PB a contract for a scope of work titled "Hillsborough County Transportation Referendum Support for the Transportation/Economic Development Policy Group project." Also highlighted was the reasoning why the county directly selected PB: 
[they] have worked on successful transportation referendum initiatives around the country
First question - why does the scope of work specifically state it is to support a referendum? Why is there an assumption that the outcome of this work will be a referendum? Why is any potential method of funding included in the scope title? Have the county commissioners voted to put any referendum on the ballot? NO! There are numerous funding options that should be considered for whatever plan is developed. Yet the county is asking PB to do work for a "referendum". 

The county has now politicized PB's work because a referendum is an election which is political activity.   

Not going through an open, transparent bid process to award the public engagement work and defining that work is specifically to support a referendum taints the efforts of the Policy Leadership Group. 

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