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JUST IN: West Palm mayor orders do-over of $8 million no-bid security guard contract

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 10/15/2019 By Tony Doris, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
a man wearing a suit and tie: Mayor Keith James explains why he wants to hire former Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley to replace West Palm Beach Police Chief Sarah Mooney during a press conference on Tuesday at city hall. [GREG LOVETT/palmbeachpost.com] © GREG LOVETT/palmbeachpost.com/The Palm Beach Post, Fla./TNS Mayor Keith James explains why he wants to hire former Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley to replace West Palm Beach Police Chief Sarah Mooney during a press conference on Tuesday at city hall. [GREG LOVETT/palmbeachpost.com]

WEST PALM BEACH - Mayor Keith James on Tuesday said the city would cancel a multimillion-dollar security guard contract and put it out to bid, a month after the city commission followed his urging to award it to one of his friends' companies on a no-bid basis.

James announced the turn-around in a press release emailed shortly before 5 p.m., with little explanation. Spokeswoman Kathleen Water said she had no more information than was in the press release, which said the decision came after interim City Administrator Faye Johnson reviewed the award and found it wanting.

Johnson, a former assistant county administrator who began as a West Palm Beach assistant administrator in August, became interim administrator Oct. 7 after James accepted the resignation of City Administrator Jeff Green, also with no explanation.

"At the Mayor's direction last week, Ms. Johnson began an extensive review of the City's process of selecting PSC. This review was based on Ms. Johnson's years of extensive training and experience.

"New information obtained by Interim City Administrator Faye Johnson leads me to believe that we need to take a fresh look at the process for selecting the security provider and put the contract out to bid," James said.

"The public's trust and confidence in the contract selection process and in their city government is paramount. I look forward to the process playing out, in the interest of full transparency and to ensure the contract is above reproach."

This review of the security contract is the first of several reviews to be conducted by Johnson, who also will review several city processes, procedures, and contracts, the release said.

James and the city commissioners took heavy criticism from the public after The Palm Beach Post reported that the board unanimously approved the contract Sept. 9 for Professional Security Consultants. PSC's regional director, Willie Perez, is known to have socialized over a period of years with James, former Administrator Green, Police Chief Frank Adderley, Deputy Chief Rick Morris and City Commissioner Joe Peduzzi.

Two commissioners, Richard Ryles and Cory Neering, later had second thoughts about the decision and called a meeting to reconsider it. But the other three didn't attend, with Kelly Shoaf and Christina Lambert saying they had prior business scheduled and couldn't make it on short notice. Without a quorum, the vote could not take place.

At least 10 firms that this year submitted proposals for all or part of the citywide security guard work had been told that James had ended that process two weeks after he became mayor in April. The firms were told they would be advised when the competitive process resumed. But the city never resumed that process and meanwhile James' staff prepared to recommend a commission vote in favor of PSC.

One firm that had the city's security contract for Northwood Village, the public library and other facilities, unsuccessfully sought an injunction to prevent the PSC contract, worth an estimated $7.9 million, from taking effect Oct. 1. That firm, Giddens Security Corp., filed a complaint against James on Friday with the Florida Commission on Ethics and pledge to continue its legal fight.

James and Green had urged the commission to approve the contract because they said there should be only one security firm interacting with the police department throughout the city, to ensure seamless communications. Because PSC already worked downtown for the Downtown Development Authority and at Rosemary Square, and its work was generally well respected, it made sense to award it the overall contract, they said.

Giddens' chief financial officer, Adam Giddens, said the news would take time to process. "Of course we plan to bid," he said late Tuesday afternoon upon hearing of the decision.

"That's what we wanted, just to be treated fairly and be given a chance at the business. It's upsetting that we had to push like we did and hire attorneys, spend quite a bit of money, for the city to do what is right and fair."

tdoris@pbpost.com

Follow Tony Doris on Twitter @TonyDorisPBP

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©2019 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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