One of the issues raised by Center for Investigative Reporting journalist Amy Julia Harris was security at Richmond’ public housing projects, particularly at Hacienda. She also reviewed HUD’s criticism of procurement by the Richmond Housing Authority (RHA).
While I know the RHA even recently has some procurement problems (I was the one who pointed them out), I also know that in the past, some of the most egregious breaches cited by HUD were caused by the City Council sitting as the Public Housing Commission (City Council plus two tenant commissioners).
In 2011, City Council members received the letter below from HUD, which among other things, accused the Public Housing Commission of violating HUD procurement regulations for contracting for security services. Five of the seven breaches cited involve DP Security, a local security firm that is tight with City Council members and a generous contributor to both City Council campaigns and community organizations and causes.
This is not a criticism of DP Security but instead a case study of how its friends on the City Council violated HUD regulations to get DP hired.
I will have to do some more research, but I believe HUD sanctioned the Housing Authority more than $2 million for these procurement violations. I know the City appealed the sanctions, but I don’t recall how it all turned out.
In these cases, the Richmond Housing Authority and its director, Tim Jones, had, in fact, followed regulations. It was the Public Housing Commission (City Council plus two tenant commissioners) that subverted the process.
The first incident involved an item that was on the agenda of November 6, 2007. The Housing Authority had conducted a competitive solicitation for security services and was recommending the highest scorer, OSS International, for selection. Below are the Minutes from November 6, 2007:
A proposal to adopt a resolution authorizing the Executive Director of the Housing Authority to execute a contract with the security firm OSS International, Inc. to provide security services for Nevin Plaza and Hacienda, which are Richmond Housing Authority Public Housing senior residential properties, from November 1, 2007, through October 31, 2008, with a City option to extend the term for an additional year, at a cost of $295,300 annually was presented. Tim Jones, Housing Director, gave an overview of the item. He stated this was not a performance issue with the current security service, it was a procurement issue. The contract had not been out to bid for over eight years. Mr. Jones also stated that OSS International, Inc. would be able to provide armed guards, if needed. Speakers were: Joe Fisher, Jim McMillan, Corky Booze, Terry Anderson, Darlene Thomas, Michael Davenport, Reverend James Harris, and Jackie Thompson. A representative from OSS International, Inc. also spoke on this item. Following discussion, a motion was made by Commissioner Rogers, seconded by Vice Chairperson Bates, to reject staff’s recommendation of contracting with OSS International, Inc. Commissioner Marquez offered a friendly amendment to refer the item to the Public Safety Committee. The friendly amendment was accepted. Discussion continued and a substitute motion was made by Chairperson McLaughlin, seconded by Vice Chairperson Bates to approve staff’s recommendation. Commissioner Lopez offered a friendly amendment to direct staff to look into providing security services to Friendship Manor. The substitute motion failed by the following vote: Ayes: Commissioners Butt, Lopez, Thurmond, and Chairperson McLaughlin. Noes: Commissioners Rogers, Sandhu, Viramontes, and Vice Chairperson Bates. Abstentions: Commissioner Marquez. Absent: None. The original motion passed by the following vote: Ayes: Commissioners Lopez, Marquez, Rogers, Sandhu, Viramontes, and Vice Chairperson Bates. Noes: Commissioner Thurmond and Chairperson McLaughlin. Abstentions: Commissioner Butt. Absent: None.
What happened was that those who voted in favor wanted to disregard the required competitive process and instead contract with their friend, DP Security. Since DP Security was performing security at that time, the delay meant that DP would have to have its contract extended until the issue was resolved. When the Public Safety Committee met on December 20, 2007, they continued to kick the can down the road, ensuring that DP would remain under contract. The December 20, 2007, Minutes:
Discuss & consider recommending authorizing the Executive Director of the Housing Authority to execute a contract with the security firm OSS International, Inc. to provide security services for Nevin Plaza and Hacienda, which are Richmond Housing Authority Public Housing senior residential properties, from November 1, 2007, through October 31, 2008, with a City option to extend the term for an additional year, at a cost of $295,300 annually •
Tim Jones, Housing Authority Director, stated that this matter was before the City Council on November 2007 and was rejected and the Council directed sending it out to bid again. The three issues that need to be addressed are the composition of the evaluation panel, the possibility of using armed guards, and the exclusion of Friendship Manor in the bid process. OUTCOME:
This matter was held over to the next meeting of the Public Safety Committee who requested a copy of the modified RFP. The committee asked for a copy of the current contract with DP Security in order to clarify if the contract has expired.
The next effort by the Housing Authority to complete a valid procurement was on January 6, 2009. By this time, OSS International knew the Council (Housing Commission) majority was biased against them and chose to drop out of the competition. After re-initiating the procurement process per Commission direction, the Housing Authority recommended selection of Mason Security Services. Once again, the Commission intervened to make sure that DP Security stayed on the job. The Minutes from the January 6, 2009, meeting:
A proposed resolution authorizing the Executive Director to execute a contract with Mason Security Services, Inc. to provide security services for the Nevin Plaza and Hacienda Public Housing Senior Developments, for a one year term with three optional one-year extensions, at a cost of $214,272 annually was presented. Housing Director Tim Jones gave an overview of the item. Speakers were: Michael Davenport, Terry Hudson, Bristol Morris, Joe Fisher, Jim McMillan, Dolores Johnson, Denise Moore, Donald Hampton, Kevin Hampton, Bob Dabney, Jake Sloan, and Jackie Thompson. Following discussion Mayor McLaughlin ruled to continue the item. A motion was made by Commissioner Bates, seconded by Commissioner Viramontes to overrule Mayor McLaughlin’s ruling to continue the item. The motion passed by the following vote: Ayes: Commissioners Bates, Lopez, Rogers, Sandhu, Viramontes, and Vice Chairperson Marquez. Noes: Commissioner Butt and Chairperson McLaughlin. Abstentions: None. Absent: None. A motion was made by Vice Chairperson Marquez, seconded by Commissioner Viramontes to reject the Housing Director's recommendation to hire Mason Security and direct staff to place an item on the next City Council Agenda to recommend DP Security. Commissioner Viramontes requested a friendly amendment to hold a special meeting on January 13, 2009, to address this item. The amendment was accepted. The motion passed by the
unanimous vote of the Council.
On January 13, 2009, the item was brought back, and Commission members were assured, erroneously as it turned out, that they had the discretion to select a contractor other than the highest scoring Mason Security. (http://sireweb.ci.richmond.ca.us/sirepub/cache/2/gwvnwu104gbafvwznwoka5bz/10326502232014112246226.PDF). From the Staff Report:
The RFP provides that the Housing Authority may select the bidder determined to be the most competitive. Federal procurement regulations provide that the Board of Commissioners may select successful bidders based on both price and technical merit of the proposal. Mason Security Services achieved the highest point total from the review panel, but DP Security LLC had the second highest point total and the lowest fee schedule. The Board of Commissioners, based on the review panel ratings and the contract costs, on January 6, 2009, directed staff to prepare a staff report and resolution to select DP Security LLC to provide security services for the Nevin Plaza and Hacienda senior public housing developments.
On January 13, 2009, the contract was awarded to DP Security: I even voted for it.
A Proposed resolution authorizing the Executive Director to execute a contract with DP Security LLC to provide security services for the Nevin Plaza and Hacienda senior public housing developments, for a one -year term with three optional one -year extensions, at a cost of $210,500 annually was presented. Housing Director Tim Jones gave an overview of the item. On motion of Commissioner Bates, seconded by Commissioner Sandhu , adopted Resolution No. 1928 by the following vote: Ayes: Commissioners Bates, Butt, Lopez, Sandhu, Viramontes, Tenant Commissioner Hall, Vice Mayor Marquez, and Mayor McLaughlin. Noes: None. Abstentions: Tenant Commissioner Thompson. Absent: Commissioner Rogers.
After HUD took exception to the procurement process that culminated in the January 13, 2009, award to DP Security, the process was restarted again, extending what had begun in 2007 for over three years. Meanwhile, DP Security remained under contract as a holdover. The pressure to selected DP Security was so great that Willie Brown even showed up to support DP Security. Ultimately Cypress Security was selected. The March 29, 2011, Housing Commission Minutes:
The matter to consider adopting a resolution authorizing the executive director to execute a contract with Cypress Private Security to provide security services for the public housing senior developments, Nevin Plaza, Hacienda, and Friendship Manor, fora one -year term with three optional one year extensions, at a cost of $305,000 annually. This procurement process was reviewed and approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was presented by City Manager, Bill Lindsay.(This item was reviewed and recommended for approval by the Housing Advisory Commission at its March 14, 2011, meeting). On May 18, 2007 an RFP for security service was released seeking proposals to provide security service for the Housing Authority’s senior developments for 24 hours a day for the first week of each month and 12-hours per day for the remainder of the month. Sealed bids were due on June 8, 2007. Four proposals were received; all were determined competitive, and ranked by a panel prompting a staff recommendation which was rejected by the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. On June 1, 2008 the RFP for Security Services was rebid, with proposals due on June 25, 2008. Three proposals were received; all were ranked by the selection panel and determined competitive. Mason Security Services had the highest point total, but DP Security LLC had the second highest point total, with the lowest fee schedule. The Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution authorizing the Executive Director of the Housing Authority to execute a contract with DP Security LLC to provide security services for the Nevin Plaza and Hacienda Public Housing Senior Developments. On August 23 through August29, 2010, the Housing Authority advertised this bid in the West County Times, and the City of Richmond’s Bids Online. There were 93 vendors notified; 4 were Richmond businesses. As a result of this procurement effort, seven (7) proposals were submitted; two (2) were submitted by City of Richmond businesses. The RFP provides that the Housing Authority may select the bidder determined to be the most competitive. Of those bidders determined most competitive, Cypress Private Security had the highest overall score. This action prompted a HUD OIG audit of the Housing Authority’s procurement activity. A finding in this audit required that the security service provided by this vendor be reprocured. The following individuals gave comments: Mary Ann Griego, Urmila Chandler, Joe Battle, Arlington Reed, Damon Brown, Michael Davenport, Sr., Elijah Collor, Marlon Stevens, Naomi Williams, Bea Roberson, LaTonya Morris, Rhonda Harris, Rev. George Brown, Lothario Lotho, Michael Davenport, Kevin Davenport, Jim McMillan, and Willie Brown. Discussion ensued. A motion by Commissioner/Councilmember Ritterman, seconded by Vice Chairperson/Vice Mayor Butt, adopted Resolution No.1948, by the unanimous vote of the Commissioners/Councilmembers.
Why is all this important? Because blames the Housing Authority director for so much mismanagement when in at least this case, it was City Council members who violated the law.
Incidentally, a prominent local journalist who shall remain unnamed just emailed me with the following:
I worked for CIR [Center for Investigative Reporting] many years ago, and have been critical of their sensationalist methodology ever since. We parted company when they wanted to hype a story I was working on way beyond what the facts justified, in order to create a "scandal."