It has been 31 months since the Delray Beach City Manager David Harden and Finance Director Joe Safford got a “final warning” from the city commission to resolve questions of billing errors for trash collection. The questions remain. Yet tonight the commisson will consider extending for eight years a trash hauling contract that has not been competitively bid since 2001.[cleeng_content id="907810853" description="Why stop now? It's just getting interesting!" price="0.99" referral="0.10"]Prompted by complaints from Delray residents, Palm Beach County’s Office of Inspector General issued a report in February recommending that the city conduct “a full and open competition” for its trash business. In failing to do so, the report concluded, Delray Beach had violated its procurement policies. Waste Management has had the business since 2003, when it acquired Browning-Ferris Industries. The current contract expires in September 2013.
Delray Beach is among the cities suing over the payment system for the inspector general’s office. Though Mr. Harden says the lawsuit does not indicate a resistance to oversight, he wanted “waste,” “abuse” and “mismanagement” to be defined. So it was not surprising that Delray Beach disagreed with the inspector general’s report. The city claims that because the money passes through the city from residents and business owners to Waste Management, the city doesn’t have to bid the contract.
Kenneth MacNamee, whose inquiries led to that 2010 vote critical of Mr. Harden and who is an accountant by training, disputes that the solid-waste contract is a “pass-through.” He has claimed that Delray Beach at various times has been overbilled or has failed to collect enough in fees. Christina Morrison Pearce, who serves on the city’s financial advisory board and ran unsuccessfully for the commission last March, says, “I don’t a clue” as to why Delray Beach has refused to get trash-hauling bids.
Mayor Nelson “Woodie” McDuffie was part of that “final warning” vote. Today, he says it was more about a refusal to provide information to Mr. MacNamee and others. Mayor McDuffie says he has not found the billing errors Mr. MacNamee cites. Mr. MacNamee responds that the financial advisory board has been “muzzled” for two years as criticism of the contract grew. The 2010 vote came after the city had failed for nine months to address that criticism.
As the inspector general’s office noted, even if Delray Beach doesn’t technically have to bid the contract, it would be good business to do so. Waste Management is offering what Mayor McDuffie called “carrots,” surely to head off a bid process. Mr. Safford has retired. Mr. Harden will retire in January. It’s the perfect time to see how good a deal the city could get. The “direction” the staff seeks tonight should be to put Delray Beach’s solid waste contract out for bid.[/cleeng_content]