With the Mitchell scandal coming to light and airport investigations ongoing, employees inside the cubicles of City Hall are again waiting for more shoes to drop. Mitchell is cooperating with the feds to avoid serving a substantial jail sentence, naming names as to whom he did “business” with in order to secure city contracts.
Mitchell, Campbell, Skandalakis and Jackson all outline a systemic failure. Clearly a few months or even a couple of years in jail is not a deterrent. So what do we do after 60-plus years of not addressing the problem in any meaningful fashion?
In talking with legitimate design-build contractors, there are two proposals that would go a long way to minimize outside influence.
For the majority of contracts, a committee would receive proposals and then vote on who gets the contract. This would minimize the influence of any city official over the selection process.
For the higher-dollar projects, contractors would be required to make a presentation to the committee as well as provide a sealed bid. Equal weight would apply to both aspects of the process so that the most qualified are chosen and not just lowest bidder. This would further encourage more established contractors to apply for these jobs instead of spending time and money putting together a proposal and then being underbid by a less-prepared contractor.
Why not just use purely sealed bids for all contracts? While a seemingly simple solution, most qualified and competent developers don’t bother to apply as it promotes less-qualified applicants to underbid the jobs and earn contracts.
The solution to end the culture of patronage is straightforward. The desire to implement it is lacking.
Manubir “Manny” Arora is a white-collar and criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta.