By Noelle H. Lowery
“‘Holy cow’ would be the legal expression.”
That is how Marco Island City Councilman Larry Honig described the City Council’s deliberations on the staff rankings of the bids for financial management services, bond counsel representation and a financial feasibility report for the refinancing of the city’s 2003 utility system revenue bonds. Finance Director Guillermo Polanco presented the rankings at the regular City Council meeting this week.
Public Financial Management Group secured the top spot for the financial management services with a negotiated annual contract amount of $32,500. Public Resources Management Group Inc. was the first choice for the financial feasibility report at $40,000.
The “holy cow” came into play when council discussed the choice of bond counsel. Holland & Knight LLP was in first place, negotiating with city staff down from its bid of $50,000 to a contract price of $40,000.
This did not sit well with Duane Draper of Bryant Miller Olive P.A., which has been Marco Island’s bond counsel since the city incorporated in 1997. With a bid of $74,500 Bryant Miller Olive was ranked third.
Although Draper did not protest the bid process, he did plead his firm’s case for the contract. Draper opined that the method of formulating the rankings was too dependent on the low bid. Low bid price accounted for 25 percent of a firm’s evaluation score.
“All bond counsel are not created equal,” explained Draper. “It is a highly-specialized field with lots of zeros, lots of commas and a lot of significant potential liability for the city. Bond issues are treacherous from a liability standpoint. The IRS and SEC are far more active with these issues than they have ever been, and you need the best protection there is.”
Draper gave two other reasons for Council to support Bryant Olive Miller. First, the firm was ranked first in every other evaluation category, and second, the firm’s long-standing relationship — 16 years — with the city. “With the turnover in the city and on the council over the years, our institutional memory is invaluable,” he noted.
Councilman Amadeo Patricca agreed, “He knows us better than we know us.”
Still, his piece de resistance was his firm’s willingness to cut its bid price to $40,000 and to agree to follow Holland & Knight’s fee schedule.
Council voted 4-1 in favor of approving staff’s original rankings for financial management services and the financial feasibility report while also accepting Bryant Miller Olive’s terms discussed in the meeting. Chairman Joe Batte voted in dissent, and councilmen Larry Sacher and Chuck Kiester did not attend the meeting.