Auto Erratic

The county commission awards a contract for unmarked police cruisers and scores bit. The tally so far: Higher costs, a lawsuit, and not enough cars.

The kicker? Because the commission awarded the contract to Royal without soliciting other bids, the county cannot legally lease vehicles from another company -- without slogging through a new bidding process -- in order to relieve the shortfall.

Ismael Perera did not return phone calls from New Times. But Royal's attorney, Robin Lukacs, dismissed the supply problems. "We've heard some noise about the police wanting more vehicles. But the contract plainly provides for a period of transition."

The owners of InterAmerican Car Rental, meanwhile, have filed suit against the county, claiming that Royal "enlisted the aid of a lobbyist to circumvent the county's staff and pursue a political route to obtain this contract."

"I don't want to sound like sour grapes," says InterAmerican Vice President Rick Byrd. "But this guy at Royal stole the thing from me." Byrd says he plans to find out what happened behind the scenes by sending subpoenas to the commissioners he feels might have been unduly influenced by lobbyist Debbie Ambey: Maurice Ferre, James Burke, Alex Penelas, and Art Teele, who is a friend of Ambey's.

Ambey says the allegations of political shenanigans are absurd. She admits she briefly discussed Royal's complaint with several commissioners, including Burke, Teele, and Bruce Kaplan. "But my only objective was to provide information that may not have been made available by the county staff," she stresses. "All I wanted was an open debate of the issues. What happened at the meeting exceeded my expectations."

The Royal/InterAmerican feud has, at least, inspired county bureaucrats to address the issue of insurance, which has proliferated in the post-Hurricane Andrew insurance market. GSA director Victor Monzon says he has reworked bid specifications on a number of county contracts to include a provision for self-retention insurance, provided the vendor supplies a letter of credit, surety bond, or cash deposit. In reviewing rental car contracts specifically, he notes that he has not found a single instance in which a self-insured vendor failed to pay a claim.

All of which has left him puzzled by the commission's decision to award a two-million-dollar contract without putting it out to bid. "I don't understand it," he says. "But it's certainly their prerogative. I've got nothing against anybody; my only issue is what price am I gonna pay.

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