So here is what we have with the Maplewoods drainage project:
1. Bids are open Nov. 18. Gulf Equipment is the low bidder at $1,768,621. Purchasing Department prepares recommendation for Gulf to be awarded the contract.
2. Commissioner Gene Valentino holds a 45-minute meeting with Cody Rawson and other Roads Inc. officials in his office on Nov. 24. Valentino first tells PNJ that the meeting was to ask Rawson for campaign support. He later retracts that, but doesn’t tell the PNJ what he discussed in the meeting. He earlier said that it wasn’t the Maplewoods project.
Update – In a viewpoint in the daily newspaper, Comm. Valentino is now saying that Roads did try to talk about the project but he stopped them – he “was not aware that Roads Inc. was in a bid process and had a problem.”
3. Meanwhile Roads Inc. officials contact Commissioners Wilson Robertson, Kevin White and Grover Robinson claiming that they made a mistake on their bid and could save the county $100,000 if the project was rebid.
4. On Jan. 7, Commissioner Valentino makes a motion to rebid the project based on errors made by staff. Robertson, White and Robinson vote in favor of the motion over the objections of County Administrator Bob McLaughlin and staff. The only error that Valentino seems to be referring to is an unnamed staff member telling Roads that they couldn’t protest their own bid….which is true because, according to the general terms and conditions of the solicitation, mistakes are the responsibility of the vendor.
5. On Jan. 14, Commissioner Kevin White makes a motion to reconsider the rebid. The BCC votes to award contract to Gulf Equipment. White, Robertson and Robinson apologize and say they can find no fault with the bid process or staff. Valentino blames staff and the process.
Update: In his PNJ viewpoint, Valentino writes that he consulted with staff and: “They informed me that there was in fact a ‘breach in the process of the bid and that the process was flawed.'” The commissioner doesn’t tell us what the breach was and why it was of such a magnitude to warrant throwing out the low bid.
As I move around town, few people are buying Valentino’s explanations for his motion to rebid – which clearly had no grounds – and for his meeting with Roads, Inc.
There are two trains of thought. Either Valentino made a deal with Roads to rebid the contract in exchange for campaign support or Valentino made the motion because he thought it win support of Roads and other local contractors later. If the first possibility is true, the Valentino broke the law….but that is a big “if.” If the second possibility is true, then Valentino’s political strategy backfired as local contractors rallied behind Gulf Equipment and the sealed bid process.
The only people who know what happened at the Nov. 24 meeting in Comm. Valentino’s office are Valentino and Cody Rawson. Rawson isn’t talking to the media, but he might talk to the State Attorney if questioned.