Broward Commission tosses low bid

Published On: May 02 2012 08:45:27 AM EDT   Updated On: Jun 11 2012 11:58:07 AM EDT

Though it is ranked way down on the bid sheet, a company that has dominated janitorial service in Broward put on a full-court press Tuesday to stop the county commission from approving a lower bidder.

And in the end, a majority of commissioners voted to do just that, rejecting a company that promised to save the county $1.2 million a year on cleaning the county courthouse and governmental center.

In a 5-3 vote, the commission in essence voted against its own staff, which after a bidding process, recommended that a firm called OJS Systems win the contract. OJS offered to clean the governmental center for $445,000. The company that currently holds the contract for the governmental center, Sunshine Cleaning, currently charges $980,000. 

For the courthouse, OJS bid $910,000; the company that currently has that contract, TCB Systems Inc., is currently charging $1.5 million.

Sunshine, though it's ranked far down the list in the bids, made a big effort to overturn the county's bidding process and yesterday won a big victory. At the meeting was Sunshine Cleaning owner Larry Calufetti, a frequent campaign contributor, public relations man Don Silver, and two Sunshine lobbyists, Bernie Friedman and Seth Platt, the son of lobbying veteran George Platt.

Seth Platt read a prepared statement on behalf of Sunshine with his head down so fast that at one point Commissioner Stacy Ritter asked him to slow down. It's not known how much Sunshine's political efforts influenced the commission vote to turn back the low bidder and order staff to reshuffle the bids. 

Mayor John Rodstrom, who led the charge against OJS, said repeatedly his vote had nothing to do with Sunshine; he said he didn't trust the price, didn't like the fact that OJS wasn't local, and didn't believe it could do a good job with a third less man-hours that it was promising.

Commissioners Ritter, Ilene Lieberman, Dale Holness, and Chip LaMarca agreed. Voting to follow staff and approve the low bidder were Commissioners Barbara Sharief, Lois Wexler and Sue Gunzburger.

County Auditor Evan Lukic defended the process and urged commissioners to accept the low bidder. His office issued a scathing audit of Sunshine Cleaning last year that found it was charging 57 percent more per square foot for its contract at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport than at comparable airports in the state. Currently, Sunshine is charging a million dollars a month to clean the airport.

Lukic said that considering how much the company is charging at the airport, it's not surprising that another company could undercut its price by 40 percent. Rodstrom didn't agree, saying that OJS' bid was "too good to be true."

Everyone involved in the controversy agrees on one thing: It's going to be a long and contentious fight over the contracts. More coming; expect bombshells.