News: City Starts to Deal with Contractors Linked to Former Procurement Director’s Arrest

Over $27 million dollars of Miami Beach tax payer money is currently tied up with contractors mentioned by name in the arrest affidavit of former Miami Beach Procurement Director Gus Lopez.

The 18 projects were identified by city staff , and listed in a memo to the Commission released last Wednesday by Interim City Manager Kathie G. Brooks. They range from small street work to significant capital improvements with price tags in the millions.

Lopez was arrested last month on an exhaustive list of 62 charges that were headlined by Racketeering. Along with accomplices Pierre Landrin, Jr., and his wife Maria Alejandra Pineda, Lopez stands accused of using his position to funnel privileged information to paying bidders and then conspiring to cover his tracks.

According to the affidavit, companies would allegedly pay the duo an upfront fee of thousands, followed by another fist full of cash once they were awarded a project. Some deals even had an additional percentage of the contract.

In October the City Commission directed the administration to take stock of the city’s current contracts with the named parties.

As a result the city manager has put a halt to it’s Job Order Contracts Program. The JOC program over saw construction projects from varying dollar amounts in seven categories: Streetscapes, Vertical, Horizontal, Electrical, Mechanical, Painting/Water proofing, and roofing.

In the meantime the administration has looked into alternatives for finding qualified contractors. Projects deemed immediately necessary, like some recent light work, have been dealt with through an emergency procurement.

Purchase orders that have not been issued will be handled through Invitations To Bid.

Those that have already been awarded to contractors named in the affidavit are “under review” according to the memo. Those 18 project range from being nearly done, to barely started.

The commission preliminarily passed additions to the code that will broaden how and when a contractor or vendor can be suspended or disbarred if found to have misbehaved or actually broke the law. According to the city’s legal staff, the amended code would also give city additional grounds for disbarment or suspension. That was passed and sent to committee during the commission’s November meeting.

Lopez has been in custody since his arrest last month, however late into Wednesday his attorney was seeking to reduce the bail set at $780,000. They were also looking to have Lopez transferred to house arrest.

About Frank Maradiaga

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