August 12, 2013 10:45:03 AM
I completely oppose the city's creation of a Project Manager position and the appointment of J5/Broaddus, a firm owned by the Mayor's campaign advisor and employing the Mayor's son, to that position.
The most coherent argument for creating the Project Manager position is that they represent the city's interest while a construction or design company would have their "own interest at heart" if left to manage a project. However, if a company submits a competitive bid, and the city accepts the bid, the bid should serve as a contract. If the company is able to complete the project at costs less than the bid, that difference contributes to their profit margin. If costs exceed the bid price, then that difference represents the firm's loss (not the city's). The company will be pursuing their own interests in keeping costs low, but that aligns with the city's interest. This is basic to a competitive market and is the point of the bid process. There will still be need for inspections and other services, and J5 should be welcome to compete for the opportunity to provide those services "as needed," but not kept on retainer.
We recently moved the position of City Engineer to an "as needed" basis. The mere fact that "as needed" is a category should send up red flags. "As needed" as opposed to what? Why spend taxpayers' money any way other than "as needed"? Is J5 serving on an "as unneeded" basis? My concern is that they are. But, needed or not here they come.
One concern expressed at the City Council meeting was that we do not have the volume of work necessary to justify the sizable expense of the new position ($90,000 a year for four years, before fees and expenses). J5's representative assured the council that there will be enough projects to keep them busy because they are going to work to bring in new projects. Here is where the real conflict of interest lies. J5 charges the city a 6-percent fee (6 percent of the "value"/price of the project) for every project they manage. The more projects and the larger the price, the more money they make. If J5 has incentive to increase the volume and the price of projects, then they should have absolutely nothing to do with creating those projects. We are currently trying to work out a budget deficit of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Any project should, again, be "as needed" and should be proposed by our representatives, the people charged with representing our needs, not a firm making a percentage of the cost of the project, regardless of whether it meets needs.
I doubt that we have enough work to justify the position, but fear that we can come up with the work, especially if the person helping to find the work gets 6 percent of its cost.
These objections are made before even mentioning the political favor involved (the firm's owner, Jabari Edwards, was Mayor Smith's campaign manager) or the nepotism (the firm employs Mayor Smith's son as a trainee). These are perhaps the most shocking parts of this whole mess and warrant an ethics, if not a criminal, investigation.
It's time we move Mayor Smith to an "as needed" basis. How do we start an investigation into the Mayor's role in this affair? How do we go about a recall election? If J5 can manage that project they might actually be worth the fee.
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5. Voice of the people: Bob Altman LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)