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Here's the text of an e-mail we received earlier today from New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson :





-Comptroller Rejects Contract for Jail Expansion Based on Lawsuit Decision and Corrupted Procurement Process -


New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. today put the kibosh on City Hall's contract for the architect slated to perform design and construction-related services for the expansion of the Brooklyn House of Detention (BHOD), citing the recent court injunction against the City and a litany of problems that indicates that there was corruption in the contracting process.


"City Hall has had ample opportunity to fully explain why and how the costs of this project have drastically grown since its inception, but our questions have only yielded contradictory information," Thompson said.  "Given this month's court-imposed injunction blocking City Hall from allocating any funds to pay for BHOD's expansion - a decision that clearly encompasses allocating any funds to pay for these services -and the evidence my office has uncovered showing impropriety in this procurement, I have rejected this contract for registration."


Standing outside the Brooklyn House of Detention with Council Member, Letitia James, and members of Stop BHOD coalition, Thompson outlined a flurry of concerns about the City Department of Design and Construction's (DDC) contract with 1100 Architect / Ricci Greene Associates (Ricci Greene) that have come to light since he first rejected the contract a month ago. DDC subsequently submitted it a second time.


"Since then, on March 13, a court has ruled that the city cannot allocate any funds towards expanding the jail and additional problems in the solicitation and selection process have emerged, leading me to determine that this process was corrupt and improper," Thompson added.


Thompson notified the City this morning about the contract rejection. You can view the rejection letter at www.comptroller.nyc.gov . 


"Given the injunction prohibiting the City from allocating any funds to pay for the expansion of the BHOD, which plainly encompasses allocating any funds to pay for the services required under the Contract, I am rejecting the Contract," Thompson wrote.


"Comptroller Thompson has made the only appropriate decision for Brooklyn and all New York City taxpayers," Council Member David Yassky said. "The current economic climate demands that we make responsible investments in the most cost-effective way possible. This massive prison expansion proposal misappropriates hundreds of millions of dollars that could be spent on critical government services, and would only serve to stifle commercial growth that is central to our borough's long-term economic health."


"This administration cannot get away with ignoring our neighborhoods.

Last week the courts rightly halted the City's expansion of BHOD, demonstrating the need for transparency, accountability and community input in this process," said Councilmember Bill de Blasio. "I applaud Comptroller Thompson for acting quickly to enforce the court's decision and ensure the public's voice is heard."


Among Thompson's concerns regarding the contracting process are:


*        DDC materially altered the estimated construction cost of the project from $240 million to $450 million without starting the process over or even providing adequate notice or information to potential proposers, thereby, limiting competition;

*        DDC imposed onerous experience requirements, which precluded vendors from participating in the competition, and then awarded the contract to a vendor who failed to meet those very same requirements; and,

*        The selected vendor's prior experience in designing a prison in upstate New York resulted in it being sued by Orange County for malpractice and improper design and supervision. 


Thompson previously raised other concerns about the project. In February, the Comptroller rejected the Ricci Greene contract because DDC failed to adequately explain how and why costs for the project doubled, and failed to provide required documentation to the Comptroller's Office.


Thompson pointed out that on March 14 of last year;, DDC issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the design of the renovation and expansion of the BHOD. 263 vendors requested and received the RFP, which contained a construction cost estimate of $240 million. Those interested were given a deadline of April 11, 2008 to submit proposals.


Nine days before proposals were due;, DDC issued an addendum which hiked the estimated construction cost to $450 million. But DDC did not re-solicit proposals or even extend the April deadline, and so only a limited number - 15 - of proposals were received in time.


"DDC should have started the process over or, at the very least, extended the deadline because of the dramatic jump in estimated construction costs," Thompson said. "Failing to do so was improper, anti-competitive and a clear violation of city procurement rules.


Additionally, the selected vendor's clear inability to meet the experience requirements of the RFP should have immediately disqualified the vendor from being awarded the contract."


Thompson noted that proposers were required to show sufficient experience by identifying up to five completed projects similar in scope and type to the BHOD project completed within the last decade.


However, none of the ten projects listed by Ricci Greene were even close in scope and type to the BHOD project. In fact, only one had planned construction costs above $100 million, and that project has not yet even been completed.


The RFP also required that the proposer's team include consultants with correction facility design of similar size and affiliation. Yet, Thompson found that the firm's principal-in-charge (the only staff person on the team with any qualifications and experience on correctional facility projects) does not have experience on any projects similar in scope and size to that of BHOD.


"It's clear: Ricci Greene did not meet the requirements of the RFP and its proposal should have been immediately rejected by DDC, but instead it was welcomed with open arms," Thompson said.


And - even more astoundingly - one of the projects submitted by Ricci Greene to meet the experience requirements of the RFP was the Orange County Correctional Facility - a completed prison facility rife with problems that resulted in litigation.


According to the documentation submitted, Ricci Green Associates was responsible for site analysis, design and construction of the Goshen, N.Y. facility. However, the Comptroller's research uncovered that Orange County sued the architect, amongst others,  to recover damages resulting from the widespread problems at the facility and for failing to provide proper design plans and oversight.


Other BHOD problems outlined by the Comptroller are:


DDC did not properly issue the "Full scope of work" before the first stage evaluations of the proposals took place, including a detailed document that included critical project information such as: Project Objectives, Building Information, Scope of Work, Electrical Design, Submission Requirements, etc.

Some vendor evaluation sheets had altered scores, but lacked the required signatures by the evaluators who made the alterations;

DDC did not provide, as required, documentation that they successfully negotiated a fee with the vendor.  Without a cost or price analysis DDC can not justify the price of the contract; and

The contract package that was submitted to the Comptroller for registration failed to provide proper signatures on most of the documents, including the contract itself.


Thompson has consistently highlighted problems with the BHOD project over the last several years, voicing concerns about the City's failure to follow the law and obtain public participation in proceeding with its plans and the adverse effects the City's plan would have on the surrounding neighborhood.


 "I sincerely hope that City Hall learns from this mistake and never again plans on doling out hundreds of millions of dollars to an unqualified vendor," Thompson said.

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