FEMA agreed to re-bid a number of contracts after controversy and pressure over the no-bid contracts. They had promised that the process would favor small businesses and local Gulf Coast firms. Well it didn’t. The Times Picayune documents that contracts went to out of state firms and questions whether some listed as local are indeed local. The remedy undercuts the intent for rebidding in the first place as one controversial contractor Fluor Corp (large Republican donator) which held a contract that was promised to be re-bid, in fact was awarded another contract through one of its subsidiaries.
In a much anticipated rebidding of contracts to service travel trailers in Louisiana, the Federal Emergency Management Agency appears poised to dole out more than half the work to out-of-state companies, despite federal assurances that the process would favor local firms, FEMA documents show.
In addition, one of the companies listed by the agency as “an apparently successful offeror” is a joint venture from San Diego that includes a subsidiary of Fluor Corp., a major player in post-storm reconstruction that received one of the multimillion dollar trailer deals FEMA and the Bush administration vowed to rebid.
“I don’t believe FEMA is playing straight with me,” said Moshiu Knox of the Knox Group Inc. in Mississippi. “They told us one thing and then went and did something else.”
Knox, who was rejected in the trailer bidding process, pointed to FEMA’s prebid guidelines for the trailer deals laid out in November. In them, FEMA stated, “this procurement is a 100% small business set-aside,” and that “preference will be given to small business firms located in the State of Louisiana.” In the smaller print, the agency offered an even more precise definition: “Local small business contractors are defined as those small businesses who meet the small business size standard ($30 million) and who regularly conducted business in the State of Louisiana prior to the disaster event (August 29, 2005 for Hurricane Katrina),” the language read.
Kenny Edmonds who owns River Parish RV’s Inc., a Louisiana company for more than 20 years was also rejected and angry when he found that 4 of the 8 winning bids went to out of state companies. Worse the Times Picayune looked into those companies and questions if they are even local companies.
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Closer examination of the documents shows Edmonds might have even more reasons to fret. For example, the first “apparently successful” firm listed was Agbayani Construction Corp. of Shreveport. But the Louisiana secretary of state’s corporation database lists Agbayani as a “non-Louisiana” firm based in Daly City, Calif.
Also on the FEMA list was B&I Services Inc., with offices at 2701 Kingman St. in Metairie, but which does not appear on the state’s corporation database. That building houses the politically connected Jefferson Parish engineering firm of Brown, Cunningham and Gannuch. During a visit there Tuesday, one employee was unaware of the existence of B&I, while another said it was “just getting set up.”
B&I’s record would appear to run afoul of the requirement FEMA established last year, namely that preferred companies must have “regularly conducted business in Louisiana prior to the disaster event.” Ken Brown, identified by one of the Brown, Cunningham and Gannuch employees as a principal in both companies, did not return a phone call.
Locals are angry to say the least…
“I think FEMA grossly underestimated us, thinking we’d just roll over and play along because we were dumb hicks living on a bayou with no brains,” Edmonds said. “Well, they’re wrong.”