In 2008, the City of Philadelphia reached a deal to award a multi-million dollar contract to a private firm to operate a City sludge plant, known as the Biosolids Recycling Center. After reading a recently-issued opinion by U.S. District Court Judge Stewart Dalzell, it would appear that the deal and the manner in which it was obtained have a stink as bad as the sludge.
According to a front-page report in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the winning contractor used a team of not-so illustrious political consultants to secure the deal:
To win the prize, the contract winner, Houston’s Synagro Technologies Inc., had a team of political consultants, including a man later convicted of bribing a Detroit city councilwoman to help win Synagro a $1 billion contract in that city by a single vote.
Synagro also brought in an Atlanta man, Hiriam Hicks, who Dalzell said paid a Philadelphia community activist $55,000 to round up 175 people – some of them from homeless shelters – to cheer on City Council as it approved Synagro’s contract by a 15-2 vote, with the backing of Mayor Nutter.
Judge Dalzell’s opinion, according to the Inquirer, goes on to recount a variety of insider machinations that cemented the deal and resulted in a broken promise of a substantial payout for one of the hired consultants. The opinion came in a suit brought by the consulting firm of Mr. Hicks who alleges that his firm was stiffed on a promise to pay it $400,000 a year over the life of the deal. Needless to say, Judge Dalzell’s opinion shines a much-needed light on the City’s process of awarding contracts where sealed, competitive bidding is not required. It’s not a pretty sight or for the faint of heart.