General contractor MCM has won a key vote from Miami-Dade County commissioners in retaining a $70 million Miami International Airport (MIA) contract, despite Mayor Daniella Levine Caya’s opposition.
The contractor, which has re-emerged after a bankruptcy reorganization following the fatal 2018 Florida International University (FIU) pedestrian bridge collapse, won the contract renewal at a contentious May 4 meeting.
Commissioners voted 9-4 to support MCN’s protest against Cava’s decision to recommend rival Suffolk/NV2A to win the work once the company’s current contract at MIA expires this summer.
They rejected what the Miami Herald described as “Levine Cava’s last minute alternative plan to ditch the bidding process altogether and have airport managers oversee the small jobs themselves.”
The mayor proposed that option after county lawyers agreed with an MCM protest of rival Suffolk/NV2A’s bid scores, “despite weeks of the Levine Cava administration calling the challenge groundless,” the Herald reported.
Commissioners instructed Levine Cava’s staff to negotiate a final five-year contract with MCM, though the deal will be subject to another round of hearings and commission votes.
Commissioners René Garcia, Joe Martinez, Jean Monestime and Raquel Regalado voted against the resolution, supporting the mayor’s position. Kionne McGhee initially voted against the resolution, then switched his vote to a yes.
MCN also won an extension of its time on its current MIA contract, allowing the company to continue the airport work until commissioners award the new contract.
“The vote cemented MCM’s comeback in a county government where the firm has been a reliable donor and mainstay in contracting,” the Herald reported. “Levine Cava didn’t cite the bridge calamity in her initial recommendation to award the contract to Suffolk/NV2A, and commissioners didn’t bring up the matter, either.”
MCM president Danny Munilla said he thought the commission’s decision showed the company was moving beyond the catastrophe.
“It shows we’ve come a long way in terms of rebuilding trust with the community,” the Herald quoted him as saying.
The National Transportation Safety Board faulted MCM, Florida’s Transportation Department and FIU for not reacting properly when cracks formed in the bridge, which collapsed, killing six people. The report largely faulted the engineering firm on the project, Figg Bridge Engineers, for a faulty design. MCM agreed to a $103 million settlement.
MCM’s contract with MIA is to farm out minor construction jobs to small businesses. In its first open session since the pandemic started last March, the commission attracted several Munilla family members, MCM subcontractors, and lobbyists from both sides.
The Herald reports that MCM lobbyists included Eric Zichella; James McQueen, who was chief of staff to Hardemon when he was a Miami commissioner; and Anthony Bustamante, Garcia’s 2020 campaign manager. Suffolk/NV2A’s team included Brian May as well as Michael Llorente and other partners of LSN, one of several lobbying firms that held a March fundraiser for Levine Cava.
The Herald report continued:
The MCM vote followed three hours of discussion, with several commissioners calling themselves exhausted from the multiple conversations with lobbyists leading up to the decision. “We have friends on both sides of this issue,” Garcia said before voting against MCM. “I get it. But it’s not about friends. It’s about process.”
The MCM decision followed a morning session where the mayor saw another MIA contract recommendation rejected by the commission, marking what the Herald describes as her administration’s most bruising day yet on procurement matters.
Commissioners decided that two winning firms should split a $33 million MIA contract overseeing projects over 15 years. Levine Cava had surprised commissioners in early April “when she recommended tossing all of the bids in a process that’s been ensnared in past lobbyist battles after the first request for proposals went out in 2016,” the Herald reported.
In an April 12 memo the mayor indicated she wanted to start over using new bid criteria emphasizing workforce training, diversity and resiliency. “Tossing the bids would also give a second chance at victory for bidders that received lower scores from a county selection panel in December, setting off a lobbying effort by those firms backing Levine Cava’s position,” the Herald reported.
Facing a private and public battle — including newspaper ads touting small-business hiring by the two top-ranked bidders, Hill International and CBRE Heery — Levine Cava backed off, announcing the winning firms had agreed to rework their proposals to reflect her priorities.
A report from the commission’s research arm released on May 4 listed the various county rules already requiring bidders to address the issues Levine Cava cited in her memo, and noted the mayor’s criteria “could be met in various ways” and some could be “negotiated into contracts without having to re-solicit,” the published report said.