Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Mayor Loses Round One

From WOKV’s Jared Halpern:

At a special City Council meeting set to gather information on a controversial landfill contract extension, lawmakers abruptly agreed to a recommendation that could kill the $750 million Waste Management offer.

As many as nine men were expecting to offer sworn testimony to Jacksonville’s City Council. Instead, lawmakers only called their own attorney, General Counsel Rick Mullaney, to the podium to answer an array of legal questions concerning the city’s current contract with Trail Ridge landfill operator Waste Management.

“You still very strong that the city would prevail if we had someone sue us, correct?” councilwoman Denise Lee asked in one exchange.

Mullaney response: “No lawyer can guaruntee you an outcome.”

After about 90 minutes with Mullaney, lawmakers voted on a recommendation to withdraw the Mayor’s request to accept a renegotiated contract extension with Waste Management.

The Council of the Whole’s vote is not binding, but the 11-7 vote sets up final City Council action as early as Tuesday and provides a clear forecast of how lawmakers view the no-bid offer.

“Yeah, I’d say that was a pretty good guage of what the next vote will be,” council member Ray Holt said following the meeting. Holt voted against withdrawing the bill. He wants more information from key players and criticized fellow council members for rushing to judgement.

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Musings on Mullaney

How embarrassing for Rick Mullaney and the City’s Office of General Counsel. 

According to JaxDailyRecord.com:

 At Monday’s Rotary Club of Jacksonville meeting, Peyton said if the City went to court with Waste Management over the Trail Ridge Landfill contract, “We don’t have lawyers good enough (to handle the case) in the Office of General Counsel […].

Now that the Mayor has officially emasculated Mullaney and his staff, are Mullaney’s days as the City’s General Counsel numbered or will he just continue to limp along in the office?  You especially have to wonder how effective a General Counsel can continue to be when his own client (and boss), the Mayor, ridicules him and his staff in front of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville as being unable to defend a contract issue such as the one in dispute with Waste Management.

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Courthouse debacle embarrassing, but not criminal

The sealed grand jury report on the courthouse debacle – $64.6 million in taxpayer money spent with nothing to show for it – was obtained by the TU.   The thirteen page report lays out recommendations for the City as they continue to pursue building the Courthouse and recommends that if ground isn’t broken by this spring, or if there are continued financial problems, that future grand juries should be reopen the matter and investigate.

“Although this grand jury has found no evidence of criminal activity, it cannot express in strong enough terms the disappointment and frustration it shares with the taxpayers of this community,” the 13-page report concludes. “… The failure of the city to complete or even substantially begin the construction of a courthouse for eight years is an embarrassment.”

Taxpayer disappointment? Frustration? 

I’d call it utter disgust.

 The TU article has all the details.

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General Counsel’s Office: City Watchdog?

I realize that the mere thought of the City’s General Counsel’s Office serving as a taxpayer watchdog would probably send just about anyone in the St. James Building into gales of laughter, but I figured I’d give it a shot nonetheless.  At yesterday’s Grand Jury testimony, Deputy General Counsel Cindy Laquidara issued a rather eye-opening defense of how she survives in Jacksonville’s version of Tammany Hall politics:

Chief Deputy General Counsel Cindy Laquidara was the second witness to exit the grand jury room. She said last week that no city officials she knew of had been subpoenaed, indicating that she and everyone else who testified had appeared voluntarily.

Asked after her testimony whether she suspected any illegal activity associated with the courthouse, Laquidara said she didn’t have enough involvement to know for sure if there has been any type of misconduct but there was none she knew of.

“I haven’t directly seen any,” she said, “but I try to stay out of things that are not on my watch.”

If only Jacksonville had an abundance of dedicated public servants like Ms. Laquidara.

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Courthouse grand jury

The courthouse grand jury met and took testimony from 4 city officials today.  Most notably, the first two witnesses were the City’s top two legal advisors – Rick Mullaney and Cindy Laquidara.  Adam Hollingsworth and Alan Mosley also testified. At issue are the findings in an audit that $64 million dollars were spent with nothing to show for it other than designs that won’t be used and defective contracts.  Read more here.

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Grand jury investigation continues

The grand jury investigation continues into the City’s expenditure of $65 million dollars on the proposed Courthouse – with nothing to show for it.  Next on deck to testify: John Delaney, Adam Hollingsworth, and Alan Mosley.

I noticed that in today’s TU article, the City’s General Counsel, Rick Mullaney, couldn’t resist taking a back-handed dig at outgoing State Attorney Harry Shorstein.   I guess he couldn’t think of anything constructive to say since his office is being scrutinized in the ongoing investigation for their role in the City’s defective  courthouse contracts.

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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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