Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chris Abele's OTHER Transit Scandal

Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele was caught earlier this year trying to rig the bidding process for the contract to run the county's mass transit system.  Abele set up the bidding process to favor an out-of-state for profit company that was particularly unqualified to run a system of this size and had a horrible record in the areas they did serve.  Despite the fact that the company, MV Transportation, scored the lowest of all bidders in the four service related areas, Abele still tried to give them the contract.

Fortunately for transit users and taxpayers, the Milwaukee County Board sniffed out the corruption and denied the contract due to the inappropriate, unethical and illegal way Abele went about things..  As is often the case, it was after the fact that we learned that the problems would have been even greater if Abele had gotten his way.

Unsurprisingly, the shameless Abele is still trying to manipulate things in order to award the contract to this same company.

Now it appears that Abele has a second transit-related scandal on his hands, one which might prove to be even more problematic for him.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that there is another problem with a different contract bidding procedure, this time for the taxi cab services for Medicaid medical transports:
A Milwaukee firm that won, then lost, a contract with the Milwaukee County Transit System for taxi rides for people with disabilities says the bid competition was unfairly tilted toward the longtime incumbent vendor, American United Taxicab Services.

Ismail Harun, president of Soma Transportation LLC, said Friday that bid requirements that all vehicles used for the MCTS cab service be licensed by the City of Milwaukee meant that only American United could qualify.

"It looks like the language they put on the (request for proposals) was only fitting American United," Harun said.


American United initially sought $756,000 a year on its bid, an increase of about 87% from its current rate of $404,340.

The firm then agreed to lower its bid price to $663,000, a 64% increase.

That was rejected and the contract was rebid, with American United asking for $464,000 per year and Soma seeking $360,000.

Soma was selected by an MCTS evaluation committee, but then rejected last week on an appeal by American United.

Soma does not own or contract with 300 city licensed cabs, as the company claimed, according to the decision by the bid appeals committee to sustain American United's appeal.
What the reporter, Steve Schultze, fails to mention anywhere in his article is that American United is owned by a close friend and political ally of Abele's, State Representative Joe Sanfelippo.

Sanfelippo is the person that Abele paid off to be the face for Act 14, the law that allowed Abele to usurp the power of Milwaukee County government, even though he is particularly unfit for the job.  Sanfelippo is also the person who pushed through the law allowing Abele to pawn off the county's most vulnerable citizens to profiteers.

It's not surprising that Sanfelippo would be strongly interested in keeping that contract.  Due to his manipulating the county's funding for it, creating a monopoly in the taxi business in Milwaukee and exploiting the daylights out of his drivers, Sanfelippo raked in $1.2 million in 2010.  Needless to say, it's probably a good chunk bigger now.  Talk about the real Cash Cab.

Besides the obvious bid rigging - designing the request for bids in such a way that only one company qualifies, à la Sportsmen United - there are two things that need to be emphasized.

One is that Sanfelippo is a raging Teapublican.  Yet Mr. Smaller Government wanted to nearly double his take on just this one contract.  I suppose if he felt that the fix was in, he might as well shoot for the moon

The other thing is how this scandal compares to the MV Transportation scandal.

Both this scandal and the one with with the transit system are similar in that they involve Abele configuring the bidding process to achieve the desired results.  With the MV Transportation, Abele didn't want MTS, the current provider, to keep their contract, so he rigged the process against them.  With the taxis, Abele wanted his BFF Sanfelippo to keep the contract so he manipulated it so that only Sanfelippo's company could get the contract.

But Abele said that he wanted MV Transportation because their administrative cost was supposedly the lowest.  Never mind that their bid was suspiciously low and that they were already asking to renegotiate their bid.  Yet he is pushing for Sanfelippo to get the contract even though his cost would be 25% higher than the winning bid.  Then again, only his minions ever considered him to be fiscally conservative.

Also, Abele would often point out that the current transit system contractor, MTS, had been the contractor for decades and that it was time for a new set of faces and new ideas.  So then why is he comfortable with American United, which has held this contract for nearly two decades?  Wouldn't it be time for a new set of faces and new ideas?

Once again, it will fall upon the County Board to make things right by throwing out this bidding and demanding that Abele do it again, but honestly this time.

I just hope that the County Board does not make the same mistake they did with the bidding process and report this to the Ethics Board and/or the District Attorney.

I, for one, after more than a dozen years of it, am damn sick and tired of having so much corruption in the county executive's suite.

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