It's quite a bit of crazy, but here’s how the story starts:
A Lee’s Summit energy auditor alleges that Kansas City officials acted unfairly this summer when they issued a $1.2 million no-bid contract for weatherizing homes in the city’s Green Impact Zone.
Heywood Parker, who said he paid hundreds of dollars to train as an energy auditor, claimed that the sole-source city contract shut his company out of potential inspection work in the zone, a 150-block central city area targeted for a variety of environmental improvement projects.
“It is so ugly,” Parker said. “I didn’t get a chance to bid.”
The problem is a little bigger, however.
Here’s how it breaks down: Kansas City signed said $1.2 million no-bid contract with Working Families’ Friend in September. WFF is a tiny non-profit in KC with no previous experience in this field of work. Heywood Parker’s company in Lee’s Summit, as a result, was shut out of the bidding process entirely.
The city justifies this by arguing that the money came from private entities and was effectively used as a grant to a charity based on Working Families’ Friend’s non-profit status.
In other words, they basically told Mr. Parker “We know we kinda screwed ya, but it was all technically legal so too damn bad.”
If that was the end of the story it probably wouldn’t see the light of day.
But it seems that KC’s awe-inspiring Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, who “helped launch the Green Zone”, was integral in the deal.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver… said he also was involved in finding the non-profit company to quickly accept the money from the utilities. Cleaver said he wanted the money to go to an established non-profit so that work could be provided to members of Local 264, a construction and general laborers union.
So Cleaver, who began the project, worked to steer money to his idea of the “right” company in order for the project to benefit a local union.
And then there’s this:
Working Families’ Friend was established in 2003 “to provide assistance, training and support to working families in need,” according to tax records. It was set up by Mike Montgomery, a former labor liaison officer with the local chapter of United Way.
Much of its income goes for salaries and benefits for Montgomery and one other employee. In its 2010 tax return, the organization reported spending $277,887 in grants to clients and $318,131 in compensation and benefits to its employees.
Last year this “non-profit” paid over $318,000 to just two employees!? Somebody’s profiting pretty handily.
KC Star notes that WFF will use only 10% of the funds as a project administrator and that the remainder will be paid out to a for-profit company in Overland Park to actually do the work. But this only complicates matters further.
Heywood Parker’s complaints do not stop with the contract.
[H]e said he is angry he and others were not allowed to take part in a program partially designed to provide jobs for minority contractors.
He said he has filed a complaint with the city’s Human Resources Department.
This situation is a mess and could well turn out to be a nightmare for Kansas City. There are several issues at play in this particular issue and none of them are pretty.
A little foresight would do wonders for the city when dealing with problems like this.
Or even just a bit of common sense.