County Commissioners Pepe Diaz and Natacha Seijas sure know how to dish out the bullshit when they are trying to help a friend hold on to a lucrative county contract. Two days ago, during the Internal Management & Fiscal Responsibility committee meeting, the pair chided Procurement Director Miriam Singer for allegedly failing to follow their instructions.
Apparently, Singer was ordered to perform a site visit to a Hialeah-based company that was awarded a $10 million five year contract to cater elderly food programs. At least that is what Seijas and Diaz insisted they said at the committee's January meeting when they succeeded in delaying the deal set to go before the full county commission for approval.
The delay proved beneficial for Construction Catering, the company that is about to lose the contract to the winning bidder, Montoya Holdings. Construction is owned by Esteban Bencomo, who has been the county's food caterer for the elderly for years and won a 30-day extension as a result of the delay. He and his wife have raised campaign funds for several commissioners, including Seijas and Diaz. The Bencomos were also minority partners in a Miami International Airport concessions deal that was criminally investigated by the federal government. Prosecutors never filed charges in that case.
Two weeks ago, Seijas and Diaz complained that they had a long list of questions about Montoya and the quality of the firm's food. During that meeting, neither commissioner explicitly told Singer to perform a site visit, according to webcast archive footage. After all, procurement personnel had already inspected Montoya's operations this past August, which Singer noted in a memo to the committee on February 8.
Not good enough for Diaz and Seijas. They both took turns lashing out at Singer. "Constantly checking were your exact words," Diaz groused. "Constantly is not August of last year...A key aspect we asked for was to make sure that there was a site visit...Now I feel very uncomfortable."
Incidentally, Diaz also mentioned that he was "told in passing through the information hallway" that Montoya has "issues where they actually create the food." Who spoke to Diaz is a mystery, since no one is registered to lobby on Construction's behalf, not even the Bencomos.
Seijas, in her usual effusively lovely way, complained that it would only take 30 minutes to drive to Montoya's Hialeah food preparation center. "Why didn't you do it before when I asked you," Seijas snarled, "when we asked you?"
"Umm, that's because you didn't, you beached manatee," is what Singer should have replied.
But since she has a pension to protect, the procurement director meekly accepted Seijas' words as gospel. "I must have missed it commissioner," Singer said. "It is my fault. You have my apologies."
Regardless, the committee voted 3-2 to send the food contract with Montoya to the full commission for a vote. Diaz and Seijas were the dissenting votes.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.