Firms fight over $1.6B contract

The Miami-Dade County Inspector General has opened an investigation into one of the largest contract bids in the County’s history, valued at $1.6 billion. The bids are between the firms, AECOM and CH2M Hill, over a proposal to overhaul the County’s water and sewer system.

At issue is whether AECOM intentionally falsified its qualifications in a procurement with Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department.

Miami-Dade County was forced to to upgrade its crumbling water and sewer system after the United States Justice Department and the United States Environmental Protection Agency sued the county.

The allegation is seriously being reviewed by the Inspector General and Ethics Commission as AECOM was initially awarded the contract based solely on its project manager David Haywood’s reported managerial experience.

With contract bids issued by the County, firms cannot lie about their qualifications as its considered misrepresentation and grounds for disqualification.

Its understandable why CH2M Hill is pushing for a review of AECOM’s background. The winning firm stands to be awarded a $91 million fee for their services.

As for the improvements to the water and sewer system, they will take place throughout the next 15 years and create thousands of jobs for the County.

CH2M Hill claimed, in a letter to the county last month, that AECOM Technical Services misrepresented the work experience of Haywood from similar contracts in Akron, Atlanta, Cleveland and Indianapolis.

The engineering firm contacted officials in Atlanta and Indianapolis to verify Haywood’s role, with Atlanta representatives responding with a memo of managers since 2001 that did not include his name.

Indianapolis’ former public-works director sent CH2M an email saying Haywood was a project manager during the design portion of the project, however he was replaced by another project manager to complete the development of the proposal.

As for Indianapolis, AECOM said it is “blatantly false” to suggest Haywood and his firm were “terminated.” AECOM’s own legal and lobbying team, Miguel De Grandy and Alfredo Gonzalez said the firm’s contract ended, attaching minutes from the 2005 Indianapolis meeting where the decision was made as proof.

A selection committee ranked AECOM first place two months. The earlier result in Tier 1, a written review of qualifications, was thrown out due to irregularities caused by AECOM. Initially, AECOM

submitted document that said Haywood worked on four similar projects and later dropped the fourth project without explanation in a responsibility review.

It was the second time the two firms were scored; earlier rankings by different committee members during a Mayoral Advisory Committee put CH2M on top. In Tier 2, an oral presentation of qualifications, CH2M won.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration said County attorneys are reviewing a potential agreement while Al Dotson, a lawyer and lobbyist for CH2M, said the county should disqualify AECOM. Dotson indicated that awarding the contract to AECOM could result in a lawsuit for the City on behalf of CH2M.

Carla St.Louis

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The $1.6-billion Miami-Dade sewer repair project has produced a steady flow of controvery as public officials changed the rules for competitors for the prime contract and the two finalists clashed over the accuracy of their stated qualifications.

Where the sales work by the finalists ends, and unethical misrepresentation begins, is hard to tell at this point. Some of it concerns simple math that ought to be easy to agree on.

After the first two, originally planned presentations by the competitors, CH2M Hill and AECOM, Miami-Dade’s selection committee recommended that the county award the project to CH2M Hill, which earned the 552 qualitative points.

AECOM had earned 448 qualitative points.

That much was pretty straightforward.

The number of presentation each competitors was allowed to make turned out to be less straightforward. Originally it was supposed to be just two.

When Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) ordered a third round of presentations, the winner and runner-up reversed positions and AECOM came out ahead. Gimenez must now decide which company to recommend for the contract.

The biggest bone of contention has been the number of Environmental Protection Agency consent-decree clean-up programs on which AECOM has served as prime contractor.

In a presentation to the Mayor’s Advisory Committee, AECOM’s prospective project manager, David Haywood, was asked how many consent decrees AECOM has been the prime on nationally.

“It is my recollection,” CH2M Hill’s attorney quotes Haywood as replying, “I’ll ask [AECOM Senior Vice President] Paul [DeKeyser] to correct me if I’m wrong here, but over 20 of these consent decrees we’ve been the actual prime on, if not more.”

At that point Ch2M HIll’s attorney quotes DeKeyser as saying, “I think it’s about 28. Prime, 28.”

If CH2M Hill’s account of the conversation is accurate, the number 28 is intriguing. CH2m Hill says it participated as prime or sub in 28 EPA-ordered consent decree programs under the Clean Water Act.

CH2M Hill’s attorney, Albert Dotson Jr., wrote to Gimenez that AECOM’s claim about the prime contracts had violated the country’s rules relating to the false statement before a selection committee.

Dotson produced a list of EPA consent decrees under the Clean Water Act, based parttly on information on an EPA website, that shows that CH2M Hill had served as the prime on nine consent decree projects and played a supporting role on 19 others.

Exactly 28 projects, altogether.

AECOM’s representative didn’t want to discuss the details, but said only that the firm was “selected purely by qualifications.”

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