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.

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