It’s been a difficult and highly emotional journey so far. Opponents of
outsourcing progress and reason have resorted to distortions and outright lies to stop privatization.
“The process was tainted,” they said. It became their battle cry, as they all but accused Mayor George Vallejo and City Manager Ana Garcia of being crooks.
Well, the process was indeed tainted. But not by the small army of registered lobbyists working on this issue for the trash haulers. We know who they are. As much as they’ve been vilified by the vociferous anti-everything cabal, they were at least playing by the rules and plying their trade in the open.
It turns out that the real source of the stench emanating from NMB’s garbage debate was much more clandestine, and infinitely more nefarious.
Last summer, the North Miami Beach City Council was considering a contract to privatize the sanitation department with the then-winning bidder, Waste Pro of Florida, Inc. According to the Minutes of the council meeting dated June 17, 2014, Mayor George Vallejo, Councilwoman Barbara Kramer and Councilwoman Marlen Martell voted to negotiate a contract, per Resolution R2014-19. The remaining four council members voted it down, and it failed 4-3.
The City Council decided instead to put the issue out for a bid again. The proposal offered by the current winning bidder, Waste Management of Florida, Inc. is actually about $500,000.00 HIGHER per year than last year’s top-ranked proposal from Waste Pro.
On top of missing out on that HALF MILLION DOLLAR PER YEAR savings, since the Council didn’t move forward with privatizing sanitation in 2011 when it was first proposed, an additional THREE MILLION+ DOLLARS EVERY YEAR have now been flushed down the toilet.
Here’s the thing.
None of these companies are in the business of garbage. Therefore, Evan Ross was never legally permitted to lobby the council on behalf of any sanitation company.
Most of the council members said they indeed talked or met with Ross as part of their “Jennings Disclosure” requirements during a land-use hearing for one of his clients.
IF Evan Ross so much as whispered the words “garbage,” “sanitation,” or “trash,” even just once, to any of the North Miami Beach council members or their family members, he would have been engaging in UNREGISTERED LOBBYING.
Which is illegal.
Even more disturbing, although Evan Ross never registered as a lobbyist for any garbage company, he was secretly working as a “paid consultant” for the current top-ranked bidder, Waste Management of Florida, Inc.
How do I know this?
Jason P. Neal, the company’s top in-house lobbyist, who is registered in North Miami Beach, told me so in a phone interview.
How much, if any, influence Evan Ross had on last year’s failed bid by his client’s competitor remains a mystery.
We will probably only know the truth – if the City Council demands of itself that they all come clean and disclose any and all contacts they and their family members had with Evan Ross about garbage in the last two years. More specifically, if the words “garbage” or “sanitation” were ever uttered.
Or, even better, if an ethics or criminal probe is launched and the subpoenas start flying.
I also happen to know that last year almost all of the council members were on at least speaking terms with Evan Ross, if not in contact with him quite frequently to discuss various issues regarding North Miami Beach.
This year, not so much.
At the time, Evan’s client, CH2M Hill, Inc., a giant engineering firm, was seeking a piece of North Miami Beach’s water plant business. Evan’s unsavory lobbying tactics on behalf of his client eventually cost him dearly with most of the council members, and with North Miami Beach’s administration as well.
My sources tell me that Ross wanted the city to circumvent the competitive bidding process for contracts over $50,000.00. Any contract under that amount can be awarded unilaterally by the city administration, without a bid or Council approval.
CH2M Hill, Inc. was angling for a $100,000.00 consulting contract, so Evan engineered a scheme to have the total amount broken into separate $49,999.00 contracts, which he hoped would be approved without submitting to a transparant (and time consuming) bidding process.
Illegal? Probably not.
Shady? You betcha!
North Miami Beach administrators and several members saw through this ploy, shot it down, and Evan became persona non grata at City Hall.
Ross was dissed, and apparently pissed — especially with Mayor Vallejo, who immediately became the target of vicious lies and innuendos circulated by Evan Ross, all of which have since proven to be baseless and completely without merit. But not before casting long shadows of doubt on the Mayor’s integrity.
As an aside, Evan Ross is also the registered lobbyist in North Miami for CH2M HILL, a company that has been contracted for various environmental remediation jobs at the property formerly known as Biscayne Landing. More on this issue will be forthcoming. (Memo to the North Miami Mayor and Council: Caveat Emptor!)
The North Miami Beach City Council is scheduled to vote whether or not to privatize sanitation in September, assuming City Manager Garcia is able to negotiate a favorable contract with Waste Management.
In the meantime, Evan Ross is known for showing up at every single municipal event, large and small, in both North Miami and North Miami Beach, and surrounding communities. He’s everywhere. Like a skin rash that just won’t go away.
Evan is overly impressed with himself and prone to bravado. He actually believes he knows all about running a city, even though he has no degree in public administration (or any college degree at all), and no real experience in politics.
That doesn’t stop him from buzzing around town in his shiny new Cadillac in search of lobbying clients, touting his many alleged connections and relationships, and insinuating himself into the lives of elected officials, their family members, city staffers and civic leaders.
Even if Evan meets you only once at, say, a Dade League of Cities reception, for example, you are now his “friend” and are automatically in a relationship with him that he will try to exploit.
And exploit he will!
Evan takes name dropping to a new, despicable, level.
Here are some more fun facts to know and tell.
Sources told me that at one time, Evan Ross had attempted to land Waste Pro as a lobbying client for North Miami Beach and North Miami, but Waste Pro turned him down. My guess is that they saw right though him as their bullshit meter spun out of control.
In addition to their own in-house lobbyists, Waste Pro also hired two more for North Miami Beach – Rulx “Ringo” Cayard and Keith Donner, who duly registered as lobbyists with North Miami Beach last year.
Both Cayard and Donner went on to be trashed mercilessly as “agents of evil” in cahoots with certain “corrupt” Council members and city administrators.
Cayard and Donner are, admittedly, inviting targets. They are certainly fair game for criticism and scrutiny.
But they also served as a handy distraction for people with impure motives on the outsourcing issue.
I have no doubt there were plenty of impure motives during last year’s contentious vote on Waste Pro. Pettiness, revenge, opportunism, hypocrisy and sheer stupidity were all on display.
But those motives were certainly not driven by any REGISTERED lobbyists.
Since Waste Pro was the top bidder last year, it was in Waste Management’s best interest to start the bidding process over from scratch. This is why Evan Ross working as a clandestine “paid consultant” for Waste Management is so disturbing.
Waste Management is now poised to be awarded a FORTY MILLION+ DOLLAR contract from North Miami Beach.
Now, this entire sordid affair probably wouldn’t be an issue if Ross wasn’t being paid by Waste Management as a “consultant.”
The problem for Ross, and possibly Waste Management, is that NMB’s lobbying laws are pretty clear, at least in this blogger’s humble opinion. If you are PAID by a company to work on an issue that will come before the City Council, then you’re required to register as a lobbyist if you have any contact at all with city council members or their families.
As I already mentioned, Evan Ross is not and has never been registered to lobby for any sanitation company in North Miami Beach.
In the meantime, here are some things to think about before a final vote is taken on the Waste Management contract in September.
Isn’t the public owed an explanation from the Council members who were aghast by the “tainted process” and who attempted to smear the good names of Mayor Vallejo and City Manager Garcia?
How about an apology to taxpayers for wasting their money? Can we at least get a few seconds of contrition? Even a sad face would be appreciated at this point.
How many of them will admit to discussing, even casually or perhaps inadvertently, the topic of sanitation with Evan Ross?
If any of them feel used by Evan Ross, they might understandably be too embarrassed to own up to it. The truth will eventually come out. They should just admit it and get it over with.
If it helps, they should keep in mind they are not alone. This is what Evan Ross does. He publicly, shamelessly and constantly brags about his alleged close relationships with public officials, public employees, civic leaders, union members, police chiefs, their spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cats and dogs.
And, yes, even bloggers.
And he has the photo bombs to prove it!
I have no doubt that the terms of the contract with Waste Management will be very favorable to North Miami Beach, and potentially save the taxpayers millions of desperately needed dollars every year.
It’s just a damn shame that the well was poisoned the last time around, or those savings would have already been realized.
“Spreading the Wealth”