I agree wholeheartedly with Hoboken Housing Authority Chairman Robert Davis III’s central argument in his response to my statement on the ongoing general-counsel-contract standoff – “The facts speak for themselves."
Chairman Davis is 100 percent correct, the facts do speak for themselves, and on this issue there is no fact more devastating to Chairman Davis, Vice Chairman Eduardo Gonzalez and Executive Director Carmelo Garcia, or more fortifying to the tenacity of the Reform majority on the HHA board, than the HUD memo I cited in my first letter on this topic.
While I certainly regard Chairman Davis as a gentleman capable of his own due diligence, some of the statements in his rebuttal gave me the impression that he may not have read or at least fully digested the contents of the March 6 HUD memo. In the interest of clarifying my and the rest of the board majority’s point of view, I would like to take the opportunity to draw Chairman Davis’ attention to a few other excerpts from the HUD review in addition to the ones I highlighted last week:
--“Please note, if the contract for General Legal Services is to be funded in whole or in part using HUD funds, the HHA is not exempt from the HUD procurement requirements.”
-- “Serial re-issuance of the RFP
Although PHAs (Public Housing Authorities) may amend or cancel RFPs when otherwise considered to be in the best interest of the PHA, information should have been provided listing what amendments should have required a cancellation of the RFP. Multiple changes to a RFP may (be) construed as a lack of confidence in the Authority’s procurement process. Furthermore, issuance of the last amendment within 10 calendar days from the RFP due date raises a concern whether the time period was sufficient to achieve full, open and effective competition.”
-- “RFP’s Scope of Services
Respondents were invited to define which of the services would be included in the flat fee and which could be seen as an extraordinary service for which the respondent could charge a separate hourly fee. This is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is that it makes evaluation of dissimilar proposals difficult. The RFP should have excluded extraordinary litigation for which the retained counsel will receive extra compensation based on an hourly rate. This is necessary because a non-competitive award for an attorney on retainer violates the requirements of full and open competition.”
-- “The RFP reveals that the contract price will be an evaluation factor for which a specific number of points will be awarded. In fact, as much as 25 points out of a possible 100 (or a 25% weight) will be awarded based only on the acceptability of the ‘…proposed fee and other charges.’ However, nowhere in the RFP is it revealed that the HHA has already set a budget for such services at an annual amount not to exceed $50,000.” Hence, the proposals that contained a flat contract fee that exceeded $50,000 automatically received a zero for that criterion, allowing the respondent to achieve only a maximum rating of 75 at best, and ultimately ensuring that the respondent had priced itself out of competition. The HHA should have disclosed its budget cap in the RFP.”
-- “It appears that the HHA prepared an evaluation report to document the ranking of the proposals by technical merit, using point scores or similar methodology, as is required by HUD-procurement rules. Similarly, a written narrative accompanied the scores, detailing the strengths, weaknesses and deficiencies of each proposal. However, factors not specified in the RFP should not have been considered.”
-- “Price in proposals were downwardly negotiated
Our review revealed that evaluations were based on proposals that HHA negotiated after initial offers were made; presumably after it was revealed to respondents that the HHA had in fact only budged $50,000 for this purpose… Negotiations in a competitive acquisition should occur in post-proposal time period; that is, after the establishment of a competitive range.”
-- “Given the information we have been provided and the questions the HHA’s procurement process raises, we find the recent award of the contract for general legal services to be legally flawed."
With HUD stopping just short of openly accusing our Executive Director and General Counsel of colluding to steer a contract, I trust that Chairman Davis can be fair-minded enough to transcend the vitriol of his initial rebuttal and come to understand the very valid and well-founded concerns of those of us who feel that the HHA’s integrity has been tarnished by its recent dealings involving Mr. Daglian, and it is in our agency’s best interest for all of us to move forward. The fact that I have voted for Mr. Daglian’s renewal in the past in no way mandates that I must do so in the future. Our general counsel terms are one year, not lifetime appointments, and Mr. Davis appears to have forgotten a number of discussions he and I had last year in which I itemized for him in great detail specific issues that had led me to feel it was time to change attorneys, and Mr. Davis at the time claimed to have had his own doubts about Mr. Daglian as well.
Chairman Davis raises the fact that I initially supported the concept of overhauling HHA resident facilities but have developed concerns about the direction the Vision 20/20 project has taken. Again, I would like to respectfully remind Chairman Davis of discussions in which he actively participated, when many commissioners on both sides of the political aisle began to grow concerned about the piecemeal level of information being disclosed and the way numerous fundamental elements of Director Garcia’s story kept changing dramatically. I remain firmly resolved that neither the HHA nor the City of Hoboken should sign off on anything about which they do not feel fully informed or have reason to suspect the facts being presented are slippery to say the least. Certainly, at the time I tentatively supported an expansion-free redevelopment plan, I had no idea that at least six of our buildings were about to go onto the fire inspector’s watch list for lack of fireproofing and backup power, that numerous questions were about to arise regarding appropriate deployment of FEMA funds to raise our buildings’ backup generators, or that, amid all the critical public-safety shortfalls in the HHA, our Executive Director was about to announce his candidacy for state Assembly, yet another part-time job on top of his Board of Education commissionership, Hudson County Freeholder aide position and well-compensated, supposedly full-time position at the HHA.
What I find truly ironic is that while Chairman Davis criticizes me for moving to Pennsylvania, I could make a plausible argument that even volunteering from 200 miles away, I have been dedicating more time and attention to the Hoboken Housing Authority than the well-paid Executive Director, who is too busy running for office and jet-setting to “conferences” on our dime to ensure the safety of our residents through proper fire precautions.
Hoboken Housing Authority
Board of Commissioners