Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Art Graham Responds to Spam E-mail

Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham has a long history of responding to constituent e-mail, something not all Council members regularly do.  His responses tend to be short, crisp and to the point.  This can elicit a positive or negative review from the recipient, typically depending on whether or not they have truly done their homework on the issue for which they spoke up.  Recently, Waste Management undertook a stealth campaign using a group called “Honorthecontract.com.”  What is perhaps most amusing about this group is its name.  The City has expressed no interest in canceling its current contract with Waste Management—it is simply making a decision in regards to what will happen at the conclusion of that contract.  Waste Management, of course, holds to the belief that the contract will not end in 7 years, but legal experts and the City’s Office of General Counsel have stated that their argument is futile.

That hasn’t stopped Waste Management; however, from an ongoing campaign that cherry picks what information they would like to dispense.  In their latest mass mailing, Honorthecontract.com asked citizens to contact their Council members to tell them to “honor the contract.”  The e-mails are short and cryptic, telling of someone who hasn’t even bothered to educate themselves on an issue, but feels a need to e-mail.  In their advertisements, Waste Management has included the section where the Council’s Auditor discusses the savings the new contract would present over the current one.  Waste Management, of course, fails to tell citizens that this would actually be a new contract and also fails to mention that the Auditor recommends that the contract be bid.  

Art Graham, in a two-sentence response to one of these e-mails, asked a very simply question:

I just have one question – you quoted the numbers from our auditor Kirk Sherman, but you failed to mention that Kirk recommends we bid the contact. Why is that?

Perhaps we can put that question to Waste Management.  Why have you engaged in an ongoing campaign of partial facts, hidden behind friendly-sounding “citizen groups?”  The City Council’s Auditor recommends that the contract be bid.  If you are going to quote from his report, why don’t you go ahead and share his actual findings and recommendations with the citizens of Jacksonville?


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Dates Set for Controversial Landfill Hearings

According to  Flog, the Jacksonville City Council has now set the dates for the Trail Ridge Landfill hearings.  The hearings will be before the Committee of the Whole, which will include all 19 of the Council members, at which the Committee will discuss and hear public comment on April 9 (Thursday) at 2pm and on April 23 (Thursday) at 4pm.  Pending their decision, the legislation would then go before the full Council.

The Council had been waiting to hear the recommendation of their Auditor, Kirk Sherman.  As we reported, Mr. Sherman released his report which called for the contract to be bid out.  The moment of truth, as they say, is now fast approaching as the Council will be forced to choose between following the advice of their own Auditor or allowing themselves to be steamrolled by the Mayor who negotiated a contract without bothering to seek their input.

For those unable to make a 2pm or 4pm meeting, their input is no less crucial than those who will be there in person to speak.  Vist our “Government Contacts” page to find the contact information for your Council Members.  (Remember that, in addition to your District Council Member, you are represented by all five At-Large Members.)

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Speaking of Ethics…

Carla Miller figures she has saved the City about $80,000 through the Ethics Hotline this year.

According to an article in today’s Jax Daily Record:

City Ethics Officer Carla Miller has reviewed about 140 calls received by the Ethics Hotline (630-1015) since it opened to the public this year.

Of those calls 30 investigations have been opened, and 13 investigations have been completed and released to the public. Seven of the completed cases were released at the Ethics Commission’s monthly meeting Nov. 24. The recently released cases involved the City’s health coverage, sole source contracts, nepotism, vehicle fuel policy and bid awards.

But here’s the one I really don’t understand:

In a call received July 14, 2008, the caller expressed concern that Aetna was going to be granted a proprietary contract for the City’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This program provides services that include helping employees recover from drug or alcohol addiction or counseling employees who have family problems. The service was previously provided through Jacksonville-based Corporate Care Works 2007-08 and was offered for $134,400 for an optional one-year extension.

The call was received after the City Council was considering a one-year extension of the City’s health coverage, so it could review its policy and determine if better coverage was available. Part of the study involved streamlining the EAP program, which included one “in-house” provider and two contractors.

In an effort to streamline the EAP, the Council considered awarding a proprietary contract to Aetna to provide the service. The City Council Auditor argued that this contract could not be offered to Aetna.

“I took exception to this because it wasn’t a proprietary contract,” said Sherman. “Aetna didn’t offer a unique service, so it couldn’t be a proprietary contract and it wasn’t a sole source because they weren’t the only one out in the market.”

Sherman presented this information to the City Council and the contract was not included in the health plan extension.

The request for the contract didn’t go away. It resurfaced in the City’s Procurement Division of its Central Operations Office.

In a memo dated July 10, the Human Resources Division submitted a request to the City’s Procurement Division to award a proprietary contract for EAP to Aetna.

“I thought I had headed this off during the legislative process,” said Sherman. “If it had not been for a call to the ethics hotline and Carla (Miller) alerting me about the issue, it would have gone through administratively.”

Sherman visited with the Professional Services Evaluation Committee to explain again that Aetna could not be awarded a proprietary contract because it was not offering a service that couldn’t be found elsewhere.

The meeting resulted in a withdrawal of the request, but Sherman was surprised that he had to argue the contract issue twice.

Indeed, why should the Coucil Auditor have to argue the contract issue twice to the same people?

All of the released cases can be viewed at the City’s Web site: http://coj.net/Departments/Ethics+Office/Hotline+Cases.htm

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , ,

More “No” votes

Looks like the Mayor may have a tougher road ahead of him with City Council than he imagined on that $750 million dollar, 35-year no-bid contract with Waste Management to run Trail Ridge Landfill.

Times Union:  Mayor John Peyton has proposed entering into a no-bid contract with Waste Management for the operation of Trail Ridge landfill. Is this the way to go?

Brown: At present, no-bid contracting is not a common practice; therefore, it appears that this action has generated some concerns. … Because it is equally important to create a level of comfort for taxpayers that will generate a win-win outcome for both the city and its citizens, we should give every potential client the opportunity to bid.

Crescimbeni: I have no idea why the administration believes Waste Management is entitled to a no-bid contract. If I were having a home repair done for $750, I’d get a couple of estimates. The proposed landfill contract is a million times more than that, $750 million. I think the citizenry expects the city to get competitive bids.

Read the rest of the story here.

Council President Fussell will be holding a meeting on Thursday, December 4th to discuss the no-bid contract.  Invitees are Fussell, Adam Hollingsworth, Kirk Sherman, Kyle Billy, Robert Campbell, Sherry Hall, Rick Mullaney, John Germany, Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi, and Chris Pearson.  That’s quite a roster.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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