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Jim Guidry Commentaries
Harris County
H-GAC Coordinating Committee
by Jim Guidry
Friday, July 01, 2011

A committee of the Houston-Galveston Area Council on Tuesday took issue with the decision of the H-GAC Board of Directors to negotiate with AECOM as the vendor to conduct public engagement for the Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program, despite the committee’s number one ranking of AmericaSpeaks for the project. Listen: MP3  RealPlayer

The H-GAC Coordinating Committee voted 13-4, with Mike Kramer of the City of Houston, Jeff Taebel of H-GAC, Sarah Cerrone of Chambers County and Chuck Wemple of the Gulf Coast Economic Development District opposed, to have a delegation of committee members meet with officers of the H-GAC Board of Directors and to ask the board to reconsider its vote. Attendance

“If I knew in May…what we know now because of what was in the paper in early June, AECOM would not have made it to the top two ranking,” said Amanda Timm of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, referring to news articles about Port of Houston Authority Chair Jim Edmonds’ relationship with AECOM; and noting that Dennis Basinger of the Port of Houston Authority was on the selection committee.  “They did not disclose any potential conflict of interest and the type of situation that it is, it breeds distrust; and we will not be successful in engaging thousands of people in our region because of that.  And for that, in my mind, takes them off the table as an option.”

Basinger had previously, in a subcommittee meeting, read a written statement about his part in the selection process. Statement

“As you may know, the Port of Houston Authority is currently being investigated regarding a possible conflict of interest involving AECOM,” Basinger said.  “With this in mind, I would like to assure each of you that my support of AECOM, in connection with this procurement, was solely based on the qualifications of the firm as demonstrated during their interview with our H-GAC team, and I was not influenced by any factors outside of our process. In addition, I supported the committee’s recommendation of AmericaSpeaks as its first choice, and AECOM as the committee’s second choice, to the HGAC Board of Directors for its final selection.”

Taebleloffered a “glass half full” perspective.

“I would like to remind this body that we currently have authorization to negotiate a contract, a large contract with our second ranked firm,” Taebel said, arguing against reconsideration by the H-GAC board.  “I think the amount of time and resources required to do another procurement at this point, when we are trying to get things off the ground, is problematic in my view.”

In addition to the vote to seek reconsideration, the committee voted to send representatives to future H-GAC board meetings to be available to explain its recommendations.




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