More of the Same in Rebid FEMA contracts

From Scout:

Last September FEMA awarded 4 large contracts to mulitinational firms which angered those on the Gulf Coast. So FEMA had promised to rebid the contracts giving preferential treatment to local and minority owned businesses. $3.6 billion in contracts for removing FEMA trailers from the Gulf Coast now includes 36 contracts of as much as $100 million each. Locals however believe FEMA ignored the guidelines for preferential treatment and now FEMA is not talking about a process they had been loudly proclaiming in the last few weeks as an aggressive shift toward the inclusion of local, small businesses according to the Times Picayune.

The latest winners, buried Wednesday on a Web page the federal government maintains to track business opportunities, got 13 of an expected 18 contracts that will go to minority-owned corporations.

The agency’s low-key revelation contains other surprises among the winning bidders, none of which FEMA officials have addressed. These include an accounting firm; out-of-state entities whose winning bids are remarkably low, given they were subject to a 30 percent markup to make them less competitive; outfits not listed on public state corporation and phone listings; and one company that a principal officer confirmed has contributed more than $160,000 to President Bush and various Republican committees since 2004.

The TP has more information on several contract winners but this one is particularly odious. First is it Local?

The second apparently out-of-state winner is MLU Services Inc., which lists an office in Baton Rouge but whose main headquarters is in Athens, Ga. The Louisiana secretary of state’s corporation database shows MLU forming here on Sept. 16, 2005 — more than two weeks after Katrina slammed into the coast — and the database currently lists the company as, “(non-Louisiana)

Doesn’t look local. So is it a small business? ( defined as less than $30 million in annual sales)

Billy Ulm [owner of MLU] said the company had been active in Louisiana earlier and that the travel trailer portion of MLU does less than $30 million in sales. Overall, the company itself may be just below $30 million in sales, Ulm said, but he did not have exact figures available

Small? Hard to say “exactly.” It did receive minority owned status because…..

The company enjoys its federally certified 8A status, which the Small Business Association defines as “a small business . . . unconditionally owned and controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who are of good character and citizens of the United States,” because Marcia Ulm [wife of Billy] is an Asian-American, he said.

Smell fishy? Well hold your nose….

Ulm downplayed MLU’s political connections. While he confirmed that the company and its principals have contributed more than $160,000 to President Bush and various Republican committees since 2004, he said they also have made contributions to some Democrats. And although MLU did employ Diane Allbaugh, wife of Joe Allbaugh, a former FEMA director and chief of staff for Bush when he was governor of Texas, that business relationship was severed last spring before Katrina was so much as a tropical depression, Ulm said. (all emphasis mine)