On Wednesday, March 25, 2015, I attended the 1:00 Board Meeting of Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. The room was packed. The surprise on the board members faces can be seen as they walked into March every seat taken and no space left on the wall meeting that included staff, contractors, bidders, 'happy airport employees from a video,' lawyers for their clients, media, and a few faces who seemed as if there were there to watch me.(Yes, that was very obvious.)
Apparently, the March 17, 2015 meeting of the GAOPE committee stirred the pot for many and put how business is done at MNAA back in the public spotlight. Many issues that were laid plain for all to see at the committee meeting were treated like lost luggage and the conversations in the business community, especially among women and minority entrepreneurs, about procurement procedures or lack there of were now being scrutinized by the public at large.
When you add the systemic culture of purchasing goods and services for MNAA that has been laden with decades of favorites vs. best practices with contractors and subcontractors and the over studied SWMBE program that resembles a merry go round with the number of program managers it has had over the years, it is hard to help MNAA see that diversity starts within an entire organization and assigned to a lone staffer or two who will eventually not accept status qua. Diversity in leadership, staff, board appointments (yes, I know the Mayor appoints the board) IS good business. Instead of listening with hearing ears and seeing with open eyes, MNAA took the approach after the March 17, 2015 meeting that MNAA will show you how good we are doing. They played for a packed house a "Nashville Airport Experience" video that proved nothing and only came across as condescending with the "wes happy, i's happy, u's happy" vibe.
With the video being shown at the start of the board meeting, I was keenly aware that this was the airport response to my blog posts. When I asked a staffer later that day, if showing a 'happy folks' at the airport video part of the norm for board meetings? My question was met with a deadpan stare and a tart reply, "You are a big girl. What do you think?" Right, that what I thought.
Besides the 'happy folks' video, the other stand out moment of the meeting came courtesy of Commissioner Bobby Joslin. I learned quickly to watch Joslin. He shares whatever thoughts are running through his head and delivers unforgettable nuggets that stay with you long after he has stopped talking. He came blasting yesterday and trust me, he did not disappoint my pen. But his words made my heart race a bit faster as I thought about his comments later that evening as I was booking a flight for a sudden trip.
During the board meeting on separate occasions, Commissioners Deborah Wright and Dexter Samuels tried to convey their thoughts to other board members that the contracting process that MNAA uses is seriously flawed and MNAA's 2006 procurement procedures manual was not being followed. (Those rules will be addressed in detail in a separate post.) In between votes for several contracts, Commissioner Joslin shared his frustrations as to why anyone would questions the business as usual model that has become an institution at MNAA. To help the spectators in the room understand Joslin's world view he shared his thoughts about one particular business who he viewed unfavorably. Joslin said, "What is the problem? We have a horrible security firm, we have had all kinds problems out of them and we hired them again." Commissioner Joslin trying to defend the board's decision to rehire a firm whose bid is at the root of much ire told a room full of seasoned travelers, the security firm hired by MNAA was horrible. What? Let us pray..."Dear God, Help."
Now, let us dissect that statement in more detail.
Commissioner Joslin uttered in a public meeting packed with spectators who were seeing MNAA's procurement practices being thoroughly examined because a third contract was awarded to a contractor whose blaring overt actions of charging management fees to subcontractors was one of the main contracting issues. Joslin, unprompted, informed the members of the public present that the security at an airport was in hands of a firm that he stated was "HORRIBLE!" And because of their horribleness, they were rewarded for their horrible service to the public with a second contract. THAT was the Yosemite Sam moment of the day! And that type of reasoning is the heart of the systemic issues with the procurement at MNAA.
“Say yer prayers ya long eared galoot!” How is that for public trust?
More Yosemite Sam comments from the board meeting in another post.
Part One: Cloudy Skies Still Linger over Nashville Airport Contracting With Women and Minority Owned Firms
Part Two: Why Previous Performance Not Considered When Awarding Firm $13.6 Million Dollars Contract.
Part Three: In Nashville; "A Management Fee" is Not A Kick Back Nor Are Primes Barred From Bidding After Receiving Fees
Part Four: The Financials: Pay to Play Sub Contractor Rules Can Cost You A Contract
Part Five: When Minority Firms Do Not Practice What They Are Screaming
Photo credit: Looney Tunes