For the City of Greensboro, awarding routine contracts used to be routine, but not anymore.
Another Greensboro department head, this time Coliseum Director Matt Brown, was called on the carpet and accused of not following the proper procedure for awarding contracts by City Councilmember Sharon Hightower at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Hightower repeatedly accused Brown of not using the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise (MSBE) office for a contract to pave a portion of the Coliseum parking lot.
Brown repeatedly said that they had used the MWBE office, which sent notices to all the MWBE subcontractors on the list.
Brown noted that the percentage of minority subcontractors participating in the project was higher than the goal set by the MWBE office goal setting committee. However, Hightower refused to believe Brown and Assistant City Manager Kim Sowell, who both said the contract had gone through the MWBE goal setting committee.
Hightower also expressed concern because the “Coliseum staff,” not the MWBE office, had “value engineered” the project to bring the price down. As Brown noted, that value engineering also allowed the percentage of minority contractors to increase from 1.2 percent to 9.4 percent. Brown explained that value engineering, which was commonplace in city contracts, was a process of removing items from the contract that wouldn’t damage the whole project.
Brown noted that the percentage of minority contractors being used was above the goal set by the MWBE goal setting committee, but Hightower said the percentage should have been higher.
At the September City Council meeting, Hightower pulled a similar stunt with Dale Wyrick, director of field services, and Steve Drew, the director of water resources.
The new process for awarding contracts, where every contract the city awards has to go through the MWBE office, has already created a bottleneck. The MWBE office reportedly isn’t equipped to handle the large number of contracts that the city generates.
The new process has also slowed the process down because contracts are being vetted by the MWBE office where the employees may know little about the intricacies of a contract for water resources, leaf collection or paving parking lots.
Then, at the end of what has become a longer more tedious process, the department head can expect to be blasted by Hightower, whether the minority participation goal has been met or not.