Sunday, November 07, 2004

More Sleaze in Corrupticut

Connecticut taxpayers are getting screwed yet again. Is your state this bad?

Even More Hartford Connecticut Police Misconduct

Pictures of young adults brutalized by Hartford PD

Does the Connecticut State Police Internal Affairs cover-up GAY BASHING of homosexual officers and members of the public? Post

...

DOT Staff Linked To Gifts Road-Sealing Contract Went To Highest Bidder

November 7, 2004 By DAVE ALTIMARI, Hartford Courant

The chief's state's attorney's office is investigating whether state Department of Transportation employees involved in selecting a contractor to seal cracks in state roads accepted free gifts that included limousine rides to a strip club.

Investigators are reviewing a contract awarded last April to Marino Brothers of N.E. Inc., although DOT records show they were not the low bidder.

That contract is part of a wide-ranging probe by Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano's public integrity unit, assisted by state police detectives, into whether DOT employees have received free gifts ranging from credit cards from management companies to home improvements from potential contractors.

Sources familiar with the Marino Brothers investigation said employees from the DOT's office of maintenance and highway operations were videotaped accepting golf outings and free meals from company employees while the contract was under review. The sources said there also is evidence of at least one trip by DOT employees to the Foxy Lady strip club in Providence arranged and paid for by the Massachusetts company.

It also appears that the contract violated the new bidding requirements put in place in early 2004 by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office.

In the sworn affidavit submitted for this contract, Marino Brothers officials said they had never given any gifts to state employees, according to Blumenthal. The attorney general said that affidavit has been turned over to the chief state's attorney's office for a criminal investigation as well as to the State Ethics Commission for an investigation into whether the state's gift law was violated.

Officials of Marino Brothers did not return several calls seeking comment last week.Morano would not comment on the investigation or its scope. Sources said other contracts under review include no-bid contracts awarded by the Bureau of Rail Operations and soil removal contracts given to a North Haven company.

DOT officials responding to written questions by The Courant said they are "aware that the chief state's attorney's office has an interest in this issue."

"We are unaware of any employees receiving improper gifts in connection with this contract. When the department becomes aware of any improprieties of this nature, we react swiftly and aggressively within the appropriate state administrative process," spokesman Christopher Cooper said.

Late last month the Department of Administrative Services rescinded the $250,000 contract to Marino Brothers after attorneys for the lowest bidder filed a bid protest.

DAS officials did not give a reason for taking the contract away and would not elaborate. DAS spokesman John McKay said it is "rare" for the agency to rescind a contract. Blumenthal said his office took the "highly unusual" step of recommending the contract be rescinded because the "bid specifications established by DOT employees were unfair and effectively steered the contract to one company."

The attorney general's findings mirrored the complaint filed by the Felix A. Marino Co., the low bidder on the contract.

"It didn't seem like it was a fair process from the very beginning," said Patrick Millina, a Boston attorney who represents the Felix A. Marino Co.

"It was slanted toward one bidder and even though we were the most cost-effective bidder, we were rejected," Millina said.

Marino Brothers and Felix A. Marino Co. are different companies, both originally based in Massachusetts, and owned by brothers who have a long-standing feud. Marino Brothers also has offices in Middletown. Patent PendingWhen Peter Dalton saw the original DOT bid specifications for the crack sealant contract it didn't take him long to realize his company, Dalton Enterprises Inc, wouldn't be bidding.

"It was like the company created this bid for themselves," Dalton said.

The original bid required any bidders to use a "cold pour" product instead of the "hot pour" method most companies use. Marino Brothers has a patent pending for its cold pour product, giving it a decided advantage over competitors, most of whom do not make the cold pour material, Dalton said.

Only Connecticut and Rhode Island use the cold pour method. Marino Brothers was the only bidder on DOT's first cold pour contract three years ago, and the state has paid the company $3 million since then.

"The whole thing just didn't look right to us," Dalton said.

"I have questions about the quality of the product and I wouldn't want to put my company's reputation on the line for something I didn't believe in."

One of the companies that were originally interested in the contract complained to Blumenthal in March 2004 that the contract was rigged.

Frank Costello, owner of Costello Industries in Newington, complained that the DOT bid specifications "prevent any other contractor from bidding this work ultimately resulting in one bidder, one material and one method to perform crack sealing at a much higher price than industry averages."

Costello also said the DOT restricted the contract to only contractors on the agency's "small business enterprise" list. Marino Brothers is the only contractor on that list, DOT records show.

Blumenthal's office rejected Costello's claims back then."While sole-sourcing is not generally a desirable practice, and in some cases may be unlawful, it is not unlawful or inappropriate if the subject produced is superior to other competing products, and where there is, consequently, no genuine substitute or equivalent product," Blumenthal wrote back to Costello.

But the DOT elected to revise the request for proposals anyway, so it did not limit the bidding to only contractors on the "small business enterprise" list. The DOT removed the SBE designation because it was determined federal funds would be involved and therefore all vendors must be allowed to participate.

The agency received three bids in April 2004 - Marino Brothers, the Felix A. Marino Co. and Costello Industries.Felix A. Marino Co. was the low bidder, followed by Costello, according to DOT records. But the contract was awarded to Marino Brothers, the highest bidder. DOT employees who reviewed the contract said that the Felix A. Marino Co. equipment did not meet the requirements of the bid.

Costello Industries was eliminated because they were going to lease the equipment from the Felix A. Marino Co. The only company whose equipment passed DOT inspections was Marino Brothers. An internal DAS memo seems to show why Marino Brothers was approved.

"DOT informed me that Marino Brothers had designed a truck around DOT's requirements. Marino Brothers had no problem with the equipment inspections," DAS contract specialist Janet DelGreco wrote.

Blumenthal said the low bidders should not have been disqualified.

"The DOT employees effectively steered the contract to this one company by putting requirements in the bid specifications that were irrelevant to performing the work but served the purpose of eliminating the other companies from the bidding," Blumenthal said.

SurveillanceDuring the period that the contract was rebid and then reviewed by DOT officials, investigators from the chief state's attorney's office were watching the state employees involved in deciding who got the contract.

Sources said several DOT employees frequently got free meals, either lunches or dinners from Marino Brothers employees including several at the Hawthorne Inn, on the Berlin Turnpike and not far from DOT headquarters.

There also were free golf outings at several golf courses including Tunxis Plantation in Farmington, according to DOT sources familiar with the probe.

It also is during this time frame that at least one trip to the Foxy Lady allegedly occurred, according to sources familiar with the probe. Investigators do not have videotapes of any strip club trip but have confirmed that at least one trip occurred through DOT employees, sources said.

The Felix A. Marino Co. filed a bid protest in June with the Department of Administrative Services, hoping to have the DOT's awarding of the contract overturned.

A hearing was held in late September at DAS headquarters. Also in attendance was Jose Salinas, a lawyer from the attorney general's office, who had reviewed the bid protest.

Millina said the DOT's reasons for denying the Felix A. Marino Co. the contract were flimsy."We argued that the non-compliance issues were cosmetic at best and not contract breakers," Millina said.

In a letter dated Oct. 18, Carol S. Wilson, the acting procurement director at DAS, informed all the contractors they were rescinding the contract. Wilson also said the state does not plan to seek new bids. The fact the work is not being rebid is puzzling to Millina.

"It seems the whole idea was to give the Marino Brothers a lucrative contract for work that suddenly isn't deemed necessary anymore and that sounds pretty fishy," Millina said.

Cooper said DOT officials had received complaints from motorists about the cold-seal process and also were reviewing how it worked. Cooper said DOT officials decided on Sept. 23 to suspend using the Marino Brothers cold-patch product for safety and performance reasons.


Fair use of copyrighted material

* * * *

Unethical Ethics Commission

Well dressed doesn’t guarantee good behavior
(because cops are well dressed doesn't mean they won't beat, rob, rape and murder)

* * * *

Steven G. Erickson
PO Box 730
Enfield, CT 06083-0730 USA

stevengerickson@yahoo.com

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