A recent discussion among Pinellas County commissioners about ranking consultants for contracts revealed complaints about the county's apparently lenient attitude toward unsatisfactory work.
"We don't reprimand the contractors for doing a bad job," Commissioner Susan Latvala said. "We don't write them up. We don't keep them from bidding on the next job."
What sparked the discussion at Tuesday's commission meeting was a vote by commissioners in August over a $4 million contract to build a medical clinic for the poor and the homeless.
Instead of picking the company that scored the highest in the bid evaluations, the commissioners voted 4-3 to enter contract negotiations with the company that came in second.
That meant they passed over Peter R. Brown Construction, which was recently acquired by a South Florida company, and instead picked Clearwater-based Creative Contractors, whose chief executive, Alan Bomstein, donated to many of their past political campaigns.
The reason for not picking Peter R. Brown, commissioners said, was that the company recently won a $9 million contract to build a county parking garage.
Board members said they wanted to "spread the work around" so the same company doesn't land all the big contracts.
That led to the county staff looking for ways to improve the contract-awarding process. County purchasing director Joe Lauro told commissioners that he contacted 80 members of what he called "the consultant community" about sitting down to chat. About 30 showed up to discuss changes, he said.
However, Lauro reported in a memo, "In summary, the consultants did not want to radically change the existing evaluation process."
On Tuesday, Lauro proposed some minor tweaks, which the commission approved 6-0 — but not before Latvala, who has been a commissioner for 13 years, complained about how bad work never seems to be punished by county officials.
However, Lauro and county Administrator Bob LaSala both said they've seen few if any problems in construction contracts, which are handled using sealed, competitive bids.
If there's ever a problem with a consultant not doing the job as promised, Lauro said, "We can always cancel the contract."
Craig Pittman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @craigtimes on Twitter.