City Council file a protest on Expressway Authority by Mitch E. Perry

08/31/06

Earlier this week, the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority ignored its own hiring committee and fired its longtime lawyer, Steve Anderson. Anderson, working with the firm of Ruden McCloskey, had served the Board for the last decade.

The move was led by Board member Bob Clark Jr. The only no votes against Anderson were by Hillsborough County Commissioner Thomas Scott, and Tampa City Councilwoman Gwen Miller.

Today Miller was joined by her fellow council members in voting to send a letter to Governor Bush, asking him to investigate the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority's handling of bids for a new outside legal counsel.

Tampa City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena (roll tape#1 o.q.�about it�)

The Council is the first body to formally protest what happened on Monday, when the Expressway Authority voted to fire its legal counsel, Ruden McCloskey and hire another law firm, Gray Robinson, despite the fact that Ruden McCloskey was the top firm selected by its review committee.

It has subsequently been reported that the Authority’s Executive Director, Ralph Mervine, had dinner with an attorney with Gray Robinson two days before the review committee did its evaluation. Mervine did not meet with representatives of any of the other law firms. He has said he tried to meet with them all, but never heard back from them.

The Authority’s legal affairs Director says that dinner violated bidding rules. The authority's lobbyist John Beck also met with Gray Robinson earlier this year to discuss their bid. He did so at the direction of authority board member Bob Clark Jr.

Councilman John Dingfelder seconded Linda Saul-Sena’s call to ask the Governor to investigate what went down at the Expressway Authority (roll tape#2o.q.�at the entire process�)

Commissioner Scott says he will recommend to the Hillsborough County Commission that they also support a motion requesting that the Governor investigate what happened with the Authority’s selection of legal counsel. WMNF has been unable to reach Commissioner Scott this week to get this thought on what happened.

City Councilwoman Linda Saul –Sena said she hopes that Board Chairwoman Gwen Miller share her thoughts to the Governor, since she sits on the Expressway Authority’s Board and observed what some are calling a power play on the part of authority board member Bob Clark Jr (roll tape#3 o.q.�to the Governor�)

It was reported earlier this week that Steve Anderson, who served the authority for nearly a decade with Ruden McCloskey, warned Bob Clark Jr. in 2004 that he was in "significant potential danger" of committing ethical violations if Clark voted on projects that could lead to lucrative deals for his company, Tampa Steel.

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