Tampa urged to review preferences for local businesses

06/08/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Officials with the city of Tampa’s Purchasing Department are expected to present to the City Council a report on giving a preference in contracting to local businesses.

In February, the Council questioned information from the city’s Purchasing Department, and the definition of what is considered local business.

Gregory Hart with the Small Minority Business Development Office told the Council whom the city considers local businesses.

City Councilman John Dingfelder asked that the Purchasing Department think of giving local businesses a certain percentage preference.

On June 18, the Tampa City Council will host a workshop on the possibility of giving more breaks to local businesses. The City Attorney’s office is also expected to weigh in on the issue that day.

One local business in Tampa says the Purchasing Department isn’t fair when it comes to selecting local businesses.

Sable One Investigations offers investigative and security services in Tampa for the past decade, including at this year’s Super Bowl. In late February, the local company was invited to bid on an unarmed security contract in Tampa. It would include providing security at City Hall, and eight other Tampa locations.

In April, City officials informed Sable One’s Michael Hadley that his company had underbid the current holder of the contract, Diamond Security, as the lowest bidder. But Hadley was later informed that they were not getting the security contract.

The city says that Sable One does not have sufficient experience, even though they absolutely did underbid the current vendor, Diamond Security, based in Chicago.

Purchasing Director Gregory Spearman did not wish to go on tape with WMNF in responding to Sable One’s complaints, but repeatedly said that regulations say that the contract would go to the lowest, "responsive, responsible" bidder.

In a letter dated June 5, written by Mayor Pam Iorio’s Chief of Staff Darrell Smith, the city lists examples indicating that Sable One fell short of being responsive and responsible, specifically in terms of years of experience and having references from at least three clients within the last five years.

In the letter, the city dismissed Sable One’s work providing security at the Super Bowl and events surrounding the big game, writing that the “Purchasing Department staff did not consider this experience to be similar to the long-term annual contract for security guard services at various citywide locations" in the bid document.

Hadley questions the critique from the Purchasing Department. And Hadley says the city needs to a new system to help out local businesses.

Sable One has filed a protest, and is awaiting a date to appeal the Purchasing Department’s decision.

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