The Port of Houston Authority Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the formal designation of five standing task forces, each to be comprised of up to three members of the port commission. The committees include the Audit Task Force, Governance Task Force, Pension Task Force, Procurement Task Force and Small Business Development and Community Relations Task Force.
The commission voted unanimously to continue its current contract with U.S. Security Associates, Inc. for unarmed, uniformed, security gate officer services at the terminal gates at port authority facilities on a month-to-month basis, at a cost not to exceed $425,000 per month. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
However, there was considerable discussion about the competitive bidding for the contract and a possible conflict of interest that was discovered when an anonymous letter noted that a security manager at two port terminals has a son who works for a subcontractor of USSA.
“With so much that’s going on here at the Port of Houston Authority, we can’t let these things happen,” complained Commissioner Elyse Lanier. “And is there anybody here that will comment on it, or that will at least tell some of us commissioners about it? I mean I have to say I am learning more about what is going on here at the Port of Houston Authority from Wayne Dolcefino and from the Houston Chronicle than I am learning anywhere at the port authority “.
Attorney David Brown said that the briefing book that was provided to the commissioners included all of the relevant information, contending that the award was proper; and he said the conflict of interest allegation is being investigated.
“There is really a very significant question in my mind as to what the facts are as to the significance of this purported conflict of interest,” Brown said. “But the investigation I don’t think has been completed.”
Other commissioners agreed with Lanier’s complaint about communications with the board.
“The entire commission should have known about that complaint that was filed within 30 minutes or an hour after it happened,” said Commissioner Jimmy Burke.
The commission approved two memoranda of friendship and trade cooperation; one with the Port of Progreso in the state of Yucatan, and the other with the Port of Dos Bocas in Tobasco.
The commission approved a memorandum of agreement with the Houston-Galveston Area Council to participate in the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program Consortium.
The commission awarded purchase orders totaling $597,500 to Portable Computer Systems, Inc., Verizon Select Services, Inc., and Spillman Technologies, Inc. for hardware, software and communication service to install vehicle tracking on portable computers in Port Security and Emergency Operations Department vehicles.
The commission tabled action on a special agenda item for “consideration of and possible action regarding the employment of Alec G. Dreyer, chief executive officer”.
All other agenda items were approved with unanimous votes, except that Lanier and Janiece Longoria recused themselves from votes on new pipeline licenses.
In his monthly report Dreyer said that April continued the strong growth seen in all commodity categories at the port. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
”Steel is booming, with tonnage up 31 percent over last year,” Dreyer said. “Year-to-date steel volumes are 1.1 million tons, ahead of last year by 69 percent.”
PHA Chair Jim Edmonds noted that the Texas Legislature has placed the Port of Houston under Sunset Review and asked Director of Government Relations Spencer Chambers and Senior Director of Finance Ramon Yi to update the board on the process. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer
Edmonds also praised firefighters who responded to a massive fire on June 11 at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer