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Firms fight over $1.6B contract

Carla St.Louis | 3/20/2014, 9 a.m.

The Miami-Dade County Inspector General has opened an investigation into one of the largest contract bids in the County’s history, valued at $1.6 billion. The bids are between the firms, AECOM and CH2M Hill, over a proposal to overhaul the County’s water and sewer system.

At issue is whether AECOM intentionally falsified its qualifications in a procurement with Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department.

Miami-Dade County was forced to to upgrade its crumbling water and sewer system after the United States Justice Department and the United States Environmental Protection Agency sued the county.

The allegation is seriously being reviewed by the Inspector General and Ethics Commission as AECOM was initially awarded the contract based solely on its project manager David Haywood’s reported managerial experience.

With contract bids issued by the County, firms cannot lie about their qualifications as its considered misrepresentation and grounds for disqualification.

Its understandable why CH2M Hill is pushing for a review of AECOM's background. The winning firm stands to be awarded a $91 million fee for their services.

As for the improvements to the water and sewer system, they will take place throughout the next 15 years and create thousands of jobs for the County.

CH2M Hill claimed, in a letter to the county last month, that AECOM Technical Services misrepresented the work experience of Haywood from similar contracts in Akron, Atlanta, Cleveland and Indianapolis.

The engineering firm contacted officials in Atlanta and Indianapolis to verify Haywood’s role, with Atlanta representatives responding with a memo of managers since 2001 that did not include his name.

Indianapolis’ former public-works director sent CH2M an email saying Haywood was a project manager during the design portion of the project, however he was replaced by another project manager to complete the development of the proposal.

As for Indianapolis, AECOM said it is “blatantly false” to suggest Haywood and his firm were “terminated.” AECOM’s own legal and lobbying team, Miguel De Grandy and Alfredo Gonzalez said the firm’s contract ended, attaching minutes from the 2005 Indianapolis meeting where the decision was made as proof.

A selection committee ranked AECOM first place two months. The earlier result in Tier 1, a written review of qualifications, was thrown out due to irregularities caused by AECOM. Initially, AECOM

submitted document that said Haywood worked on four similar projects and later dropped the fourth project without explanation in a responsibility review.

It was the second time the two firms were scored; earlier rankings by different committee members during a Mayoral Advisory Committee put CH2M on top. In Tier 2, an oral presentation of qualifications, CH2M won.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration said County attorneys are reviewing a potential agreement while Al Dotson, a lawyer and lobbyist for CH2M, said the county should disqualify AECOM. Dotson indicated that awarding the contract to AECOM could result in a lawsuit for the City on behalf of CH2M.