Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nashville Airport Commissioner Tells Room Full Airport Security Firm is Horrible



 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



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nashville Airport Did Not Consider Previous History As Criteria For $13.6 Million Dollar Janitorial Contract

The Questions Continue:

Commissioner Dexter Samuels asked about the scoring system that was used by the airport staff to review companies' work performances with the airport. Mr. Crook stated that scoring system was 1-6 but will change to 1-5 later. When asked what was the score for SMS, Mr. Crook stated, "no specific numeric figure could be given" but the staff recommendation was to work with SMS because they had "done well." Huh? You follow that. I didn't. By now, I was sitting on the edge of my seat and the slow firing of pointed questions to Mr. Crook was just getting started.


When Commissioner Samuels asked Mr. Crook about the evaluation criteria, it was about as useless  as the scoring system that was not used. There was no evaluation criteria specific to SMS. SMS responded to the RFP, along with 12 others firms in December 2014. Also, the contractor did not have to be located in state of Tennessee. SMS has been with MNAA since 2004 with two prior contracts and this contract, if approved, would be their third contract as the prime contractor providing cleaning and custodial services to Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA). Mr. Crook stated that for three years, the contract was managed by David Howard, assistant manager of Maintenance Services, who expressed support to continuing to work with SMS. MNAA's SVP of Operations, Maintenance and Public Safety, Doug Kreluelan, gave some input about the contract being three years with extensions in prior years but "it takes a minute to get folks out of the airport if you decide to kick them out." Interesting commentary. But according to several subs, that is not how it worked for them but I will save that for a later post.

Samuels appeared perplexed by MNAA's staff being supportive of this prime contractor receiving the contract over firms like "DTZ, DFS, SMC," in light of  potential infractions by SMS. Samuels asked if the relationship between the prime and the subcontractor was factored into the staff's reviews when the staff discussed the awarding of the contract to SMS. "No, that was not a factor," Mr. Crook shared.

After Mr. Crook's response, Commissioner Samuels inquired about the management fee that a subcontractor was charged by SMS. Samuels asked, "How could the prime meet the fiduciary responsibility required to spend with the subcontractor according to the RFP, if the prime charged the subcontractor $195,000 in management fees?" What management fee? At this point, I dropped my pen because the room's atmosphere rapidly changed. I actually looked up to see if an oxygen mask was going to drop from the ceiling. Keep reading.

Mr. Crook who was leaning in his seat at the start of the meeting was no sitting up as further questions about the management fees charged to the subcontractor were asked from Samuels. The board chair, Commissioner Julie Mosley, piped in and said sheepishly, "That was an unfortunate situation but that is in the past." Past? Hmm. Samuels starts to speak as if he was thinking aloud while flipping through a thick binder in front of him. He then began reading about policies and procedures and the board's responsibility to make sure the bidding process is fair and "in compliance with applicable state and federal laws and regulations." He seemed as if he was making sure the board knew the procurement rules even if the staff was not using the rules with this particular contractor and this janitorial contract. I also noticed for the first time Samuels was sitting at the head of the table.  

Samuels continued to question Mr. Crook and the MNAA's evaluation process of SMS, the prime contractor. Mr. Crook revealed that Lynne Stecke, the director of purchasing, checked SMS's references. (I do not remember a "Lynne" being in the room but I felt for certain she was about to be thrown under a plane.) Mr. Crook relied on Lynne's external reference checks and stated she contacted Gaylord, Music City Center, and others to inquire about SMS's work performance with them. When asked if the other companies had diversity requirements as part of their procurement process, Mr. Crook said he would check with Lynne. Paging Lynne Stecke!

Commissioner Bobby Joslin chimed in and stated the board was "very transparent and worked hard" and wanted to know what was being implied by Samuels line of questioning. Samuels who looked as if a gnat had appeared out of no where and batted it away, replied that he wanted to know why SMS was "deemed the responsible bidder" with the issues already experienced with them from previous contracts that both, MNAA's staff and the board, were aware of for some time. (This audit memo from 9/2008 is worth a read.) A lawyer spoke up and mentioned a legal opinion that was given in regards to the contract and the subcontractor's relationship. But Samuels continued pushing back by asking about possible legal issues that may be surrounding SMS and the MNAA. Samuels then inquired if there were conflicts of interests with a firm representing the board and the contractor. WTH? This meeting was beginning to feel like a cheap flight that sounded like a good deal but when you read the find print it states the flight will take 48 hours to reach your final destination. No thanks! I kept watching the board members while trying to take notes.

With this meeting well pass the thirty minute mark, the question of why would this board approve a contract with a contractor who has been charging a management fee to a subcontractor in prior years  hung in the air like the smell of porta potty after a free concert with Luke Bryan. What did the subcontractor get for $195,000? Is this legal? This meeting is not even over and the slow firing of questions from Commissioner Samuels kept coming.

Part One: Cloudy Skies Still Linger over Nashville Airport Contracting With Women and Minority Owned Firms

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:  www.dynamicon.com.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cloudy Skies Still Linger Over Nashville Airport Contracting with Women and Minority Owned Firms





Several years ago, I decided that competing for business where I must label my company as a small woman minority business enterprise was not worth the hoops one must jump through in order to do business with government agencies. There are not enough chemicals formulated to exterminate the vexations that are part of the bidding process before you ever see the first pest that must be eradicated for a government pest control contract. Between being given a colonoscopy without anesthesia to work for an agency that will probe every reason not to work with you and the label you have given yourself by checking the boxes that can make one feel as inept as third grade dropout trying to fill out the SAT to attend college, many small companies believe trying to do business as a SMWBE or DWE is rigged before the invitation to bid is sent out. If the spotlight is not on the process, from the invitation to bid to the awarding of the contract, night and day, the  government contracting procurement system recycles the same frequent fliers from the board approvals to program managers to the contractors to the suppliers to the awarding of the contract from one agency to another. 

Even though I have renounced many minority business programs because of the lack of accountability and the system one must work under to do business, from time to time, I will attend a bid hearing or a government networking event solely to meet other entrepreneurs. Nothing is wrong with networking with majority and minority firms to let them know you are capable of doing business with them without a government mandate. And nothing is wrong with keeping an eye on minority business programs that have the potential to be highlighted for best practices and exposing those who help perpetuate the insanity of even attempting to do business with federal, state, and local agencies as a small company. 

Metro Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA)’s SMWBE program should be one of those programs that must be reviewed and microscopically probed often because of its documented history and failure to correct practices that has revealed how it works (not) with women and minority owned firms. The MNAA’s SMWBE program has been a source of strife in the minority business community for several decades. Doing business with the airport has long been known to produce millionaires, for some, by the awarding of federal and state contracts. Because the airport has tried to keep up with the growth of the rapid changing Middle Tennessee Region, the airport can be a plane load of economic opportunities...for some. The expansion of MNAA and the ease of accessibility to and from the airport are often touted to attract companies that are rich in diverse people from other areas of the country and from around the world, to transplant offices and their greatest commodity, their workforce, to our corporation embracing city. But rich in diversity corporations rarely hear about the disparity study submitted by Griffin and Strong to the MNAA in September of 2007 that backs MNAA’s stated awareness of the need to do more business with local women and minorities owned firms and the number of complaints that have been an “invitation for a lawsuit” for practices that are out of touch with a city that uses diversity and inclusion in its branding to increase economic growth in our area. 

This month (eight years after the 2007 disparity study), I contacted the MNAA Office of Business Diversity Development to inquire about upcoming contracting opportunities that may be on the horizon. Attending meetings can help one sift through minority program's website BS and actual business being done.  Since I did not hear back from the office, I decided to go to MNAA’s office which is two exits from me. On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, the day I stopped by, to my delight (and later dismay) General Aviation Operations Planning and Engineering (GAOPE) Committee meeting was scheduled to vote on the awarding of two contracts with MNAA. The GAOPE Committee with four Commissioners present (Samuels, Mosley, Joslin, and Wright) turned into an information fest that my pen and note pad devoured from start to the end of the meeting. The comments by the Commissioners gave validity to many who have longed stated MNAA has not learned from its past bad performance reviews in the disparity study by vendors and sub-contractors and why no one should believe that MNAA can police itself to foster contracting opportunities for women and minority owned business for locally funded airport projects. 

Below is some of the particulars of the public meeting that shocked me how MNAA awards contracts. The meeting reminded me of stories told by my Mississippi grandparents who lived through Jim Crow South’s unwritten business rules that were often made up on the spot and no matter how a minority owned company ('black folks in business') persevered through a meeting to show they were the best company for the job and could compete, they would be denied the contract even when the majority owned company practiced overt racism in broad daylight for all to see. The majority company was forgiven for being questioned and the minority firm was punished for even attempting to compete and barred from questioning the practices and principles of those involved in the contract decision.

Now the Meeting
The meeting started off slow discussing a bid for asphalt. Nothing seemed unsound in the reasons stated why the airport needed more pavement and recommended a company who is already doing business with the airport to continue their services since they had equipment already on the airport property. The information about the contract and details about the project were displayed on the big screen along with the amount for the contract. A vote was called to approve the contract with a dollar amount of nearly $800,000. All of the Commissioners voted to approve. I wrote "smooth landing," in my notes.

But when Floyd Crook, director of MNAA maintenance facilities, took to discussing the janitorial contract; turbulence was encountered and that contract was met with greater scrutiny that showed some serious issues in how contracts are awarded at the city's prized airport. According to Mr Crook, the "airport staff" (no staff names mentioned) recommended awarding the contract to Service Management Systems (SMS) because they were great to work with and they provided good services. When Commissioner Samuels asked for the award amount they were about to vote on, Mr. Crook did not have the figures nor were the figures on the screen like the details of concrete contract for all to see. (MNAA is approving the contract for janitorial services but Mr. Crook does not have the amount in front of him nor did the board have amount they were voting on. Interesting.)

Commissioner Samuels waited a few more minutes and requested the bid amount again and a staff person jotted out the room to retrieve it. When she returned, Commissioner Samuels stated the award amount was for $13,659,555. I sat stunned not at the amount but that the amount was going to be voted on without stating how much. With a swish of the pen, a company was going to be awarded millions without having to state the contract value? Hmm. The staff must really feel good about SMS. But as the meeting continued, more questions about SMS raised serious concerns as to why would the airport staff feel so confident about this firm who is receiving the contract for the third time. SMS was having one heck of a St. Patrick's Day Party and it was only not even 10:00am.

Commissioner Samuels asked about the scoring system that was used by the airport staff to review companies' work performances with the airport. Mr. Crook stated that scoring system was 1-6 but will change to 1-5 later. When asked what was the score for SMS, Mr. Crook stated, "no specific numeric figure could be given" but the staff recommendation was to work with SMS because they had "done well." Huh? You follow that. I didn't. By now, I was sitting on the edge of my seat and the slow firing of pointed questions to Mr. Crook was just getting started. 

Part Two: Why Previous Performance Not Considered When Awarding Firm $13 Million Dollars. 

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


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gunnery Sgt Roy Brady Jr: Walking 4 Warriors on Living Your Best Life Radio with Genma Holmes

Join Living Your Best Life as we celebrate our military heroes' journeys before and after their service to our country. Hear from men and women who are sons and daughters; husbands and wives; fathers and mothers; grandparents; siblings; and loyal friends. Hear from members of the Marines, Army, Air Force, and Navy share personal stories and highlights from their military careers. All have roles that made them the "first" in many endeavors throughout their lives and in the military. We will hear about their rarely discussed acts of courage and sacrifice that embody servant leadership that will empower, inspire, and motivate listeners.


On Saturday, March 21, 2015, tune in to hear from Rt. Gunny Sergent Roy Brady Jr, USMC. Listen to Gunny Brady share about his twenty two years in the Marine Corps and his short stint in retirement before on embarking on a new venture to serve his country by walking 3,000 miles cross country. 

Brady who became a Marine after graduating from high school missed the routine of being in the military and decided after few months into retirement, he wanted to walk across America to bring awareness to the sacrifices of our military veterans, what they face after returning home and to share what Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge does for warriors of all branches. Brady begun his walk in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 1, 2015.

Brady's family members shared his story with Lt. Colonel, Army (Rt.) Daphne Young, DDS and she reached out to Living Your Best Life Radio. Since that initial call from family, audiences have been tuning in weekly to hear updates from Gunny Roy Brady's journey and sharing with others his mission to raise funds for a worthy cause. 


Gunny Brady with Lt. Colonel, Army(Rt) Daphne Young, DDS

When Brady arrived in Nashville he visited with Korean Veteran Joel McKissack (USMC), and WWII Montford Pointer, Mark H. McCann, Sr. The fellowship of brothers greatly encouraged Brady during his time in Nashville as well as hearing history straight from the history makers. He visited with the MUSIC CITY DET 378 MARINE CORP LEAGUE the next day.
Korean Veteran Joel McKissack (USMC) with Roy Brady, Jr.













Montford Point Marine Mark H. McCann

The local and national media have been interested in Brady's story. He stopped by WMSV and TSU WTST studios. He plans to spend a few days with family and more time with Mr. McCann and Mr. McKissack before restarting his travels across country.


Living Your Best Life Radio, radio that empowers, inspires, and motivates you to live your BEST life can be heard on 760AM in the Middle Tennessee Region, on Tune In Radio, streamed live on the web at UStream.TV  on Saturdays from 9:00-10:00am CST and on military bases.

 More About Walk For Warriors

526294_10201501258870411_1921153580_n On March 1, 2015, retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt Roy Brady, Jr., embarks on a cross country trek from the heart. It’s dedicated to his fellow warriors. As a veteran himself, the concept for the “Walk For Warriors” grew out of his love for the military, families of those that serve and awareness of the difficult challenges faced by returning personnel as they transition from war front to home front. 

His walk began in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina with a send-off courtesy of the local Marine Reserve Unit and will wind its way through the roads and highways of Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, before ending at Camp Pendleton in California approximately 6-8 months from when he began.

Roy Brady’s “Walk For Warriors” journey celebrates the heart of every soldier, with recovery as the mission, the objective remains leaving no one behind. Join Roy in honoring our military by contributing to his Challenge Fund at Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge.

Roy’s goal is to raise $35,000 to go towards one of our programs* such as The Adaptive Sailing Boot Camp for Novices in Galveston, Texas or our  SCUBA challenge that takes place to not only advance the work being done on prosthetic limbs, but also works in cooperation with MOTE to rebuild the reefs, including the Memorial Reef started during our 2014 SCUBA Challenge.

 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

GFWC Brentwood Woman's Club Seeking Nominations for Woman of the Year



Contact:  Genma Holmes
Tel #:  615-506-7604


Seeking Nominations for Woman of the Year

For the past 6 years the Brentwood Woman’s Club has selected a Brentwood resident, to honor as their Woman of the Year.  Nominations are due by March 31 and can be submitted to club via email or mailed to the club at PO Box 964, Brentwood, TN. 37024.   A nomination form can be downloaded from club’s web-site: www.bwctn.org or by contacting the club’s email address:  bwctn964@gmail.com.  The selected recipient will be honored at the club’s annual spring fund-raiser, Step Up:  It’s a Charity Affair, at the Brentwood Country Club on May 5 featuring speaker and performer Melinda Doolittle.



Prior honorees have been Linda Lynch, City of Brentwood Community Relations Director; Joyce Keistler, Director of the Martin Center; Susan Leathers, prior Editor and Co-Owner Brentwood Home Page, Franklin Home Page and BrentWord Communications; Linda Jackson, Executive Director of BRIDGES; Nancy Osman, community volunteer and Director of Ty2 Foundation, and  Jennifer Wolcott, community volunteer with the American Red Cross and the Boys Scout.
. . . . . . . . . .

About the General Federation of Women’s Clubs


The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is a unifying force, bringing together local women’s clubs, with members dedicated to strengthening their communities and enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.  With 100,000 members in affiliated clubs in every state and more than a dozen countries, GFWC members are community leaders who work locally to create global change by supporting the arts, preserving natural resources, advancing education, promoting healthy lifestyles, encouraging civic involvement, and working toward world peace and understanding.  The Brentwood Woman’s Club has been a chartered member of GFWC for over 40 years.

. . . . . . . . . .