Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

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DeKalb County & Sneaky Insider-Vendor Deals…?

by PV

There is a big article on the AJC website today that details what appears to be some potentially dishonest dealings by DeKalb County’s CEO Burell Ellis and some vendors who have scored some sweet contract deals. You can get informed here: Vendors in DeKalb government probe earned millions

Mentioned in this article are 6 private entities who are under specific focus by the DeKalb DA’s office in connection with their receiving contracts from DeKalb:

The Ferguson Group (a lobbying company)
Massey, Watson, Bowers & Hembree (a lobbying company)
Inland Waters Pollution Control (an underground pipe repair company)
MWH Global (an engineering and construction services firm)
Rural/Metro Corp. (an ambulance company)
Sentinel Offender Services (a probation services company)

Also revealed in that article is this tidbit of information:

“In separate instances that involved Sentinel’s and Rural/Metro’s competitors, county officials either terminated or tried to terminate contracts with those competitors. The effort involving Sentinel’s competitor failed after a judge pointed out that the county didn’t have the legal authority to terminate probation services contracts.

In the other case, the county did cancel a contract with Rural/Metro’s competitor in 2010. A month later, Rural/Metro was awarded an “emergency” yearlong contract that has been extended and remains in place.”

NOW…what PV finds especially intriguing is this concept of an “emergency” contract. An “emergency” contract is awarded to a vendor by the governing agency that has issued an “emergency RFP/RFB” that short-circuits the normal route (and, normal legal processes required by the governing agency) of bidding for services.

You may or may not recall a couple of stories covered by FOX 5’s Dale Russell just a short while ago concerning the Fulton County Development Authority and their award of an “emergency contract” that continued to be renewed without any normal bid process. Here are links to the two stories:

Lavish spending by Fulton County Development Authority

Fulton Co. Development Authority’s spending on outside contracts questioned

It is this second story that exposes the fact that a lobbying contract was awarded based on an “emergency” bid process. In an emergency bid process, the premise is that there is an urgent need for something, so it is legal for a government agency to ignore the normal rules to seek bids, review bids, and award bids.

However…what is suspicious in the Fulton County Development Authority (“FCDA”) case is that the chairman of the FCDA is in a business relationship with the lobbyist who won the “emergency” lobbying contract. And, it is a contract that has been re-issued for two years following the first year’s “emergency” instance to the same lobbyist. (One would think that once a government entity got past the “emergency” event that they would be able to re-set the process to have a normal bidding process be opened-up.)

Circling back now to current-day in DeKalb County, there are a few interesting factoids PV has discovered as a result of this story:

1) Bruce Bowers was a registered lobbyist for Rural Metro Ambulance from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2011. Recall the paragraph cited previously from the AJC story regarding Rural Metro Ambulance being “awarded” an emergency contract in 2010 after the previous vendor had their contract terminated early with no apparently truly valid reason given (PV suspects it was this terminated vendor who followed the money and tipped-off the DeKalb DA to suspected shenanigans within the county)

2) Brandon Hembree is still connected to Rural Metro Ambulance as a registered lobbyist, having started on January 1, 2006 when Bruce Bowers started that contract as well.

3) Lewis Massey is also still a currently registered State and Local lobbyist for Rural Metro Ambulance

To the reader who may not understand this situation, lobbyists, in addition to lobbying the state legislature, are also sometimes employed by private companies to act as, essentially, “business development lobbyists” to secure contracts with local governments. When you look at the registration for Bruce Bowers, Lewis Massey and Brandon Hembree, you will note two levels of lobbyist registration for Rural Metro Ambulance: State and Local. “Local-level” lobbying means the ability to lobby local government officials to create new business opportunities for the clients who hire them. Nothing illegal about that…as long as the activities are all above board.

However, if the AJC story is accurate that the previous vendor for the county’s ambulance service was terminated and then an “emergency contract” had to be let because they terminated the previous contract and had no ambulance service coverage for the county…then that points to 1) a minimum that the county is pretty freaking INCOMPETENT, and 2) that it looks like backroom deals were made to push Rural Metro Ambulance forward into getting a sweetheart, easy deal with the county via a fabricated “emergency vendor service bid” that was created by insiders to benefit cronies of the insiders.

Finally…in that AJC story, Bruce Bowers is quoted in reaction to the AJC’s question about Massey Bowers, et al. name appearing on the search warrants as stating: “My partner and I were both surprised to see our firm name involved in this inquiry…Unfortunately, we have no idea or knowledge, beyond what we have read in the media, of what is being looked at in this situation and, to date, we have made no inquiries.”

PV Note to Bruce Bowers: No inquiries, huh? No idea at all as to why your lobbying firm might be mentioned in an investigation with vendor contracts in DeKalb County? No knowledge, eh?

Just how did your client Rural Metro Ambulance happen to find out about this “emergency need” for services by DeKalb County? Were you guys just sauntering past the water cooler of the DeKalb County Purchasing Department and overhear something like “Well, dang! Now that we fired that other ambulance company, we need a NEW ambulance company. Wherever will we find someone to qualify? And, quickly?”

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Today's Deep Thought

Here's a good joke to do during an earthquake: straddle a big crack in the ground, and if it opens wider, go 'Whoa! Whoa!' and flail your arms around, like you're going to fall in.



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