Odebrecht Is Portuguese for "Pay More"

Imagine you hire a contractor to build your house. And that contractor goes over budget, continually misses deadlines, and then tries to charge you more for it. Logic dictates you wouldn't hire that contractor again, unless you're a sucker. Well, Miami-Dade County government is the biggest sucker when it comes to hiring construction firms.

Last month, the county commission awarded $360 million of our taxpayer money to a couple of companies with spotty records of delivering county projects late and over budget. The joint venture between the Tower Group and Odebrecht will build a 2.4-mile extension of Metrorail to Miami International Airport. New Times already reported on the problems Tower has caused at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center. Well, Odebrecht has reaked havoc on county projects too.

In the late '90s, the Brazilian engineering and construction conglomerate landed a $60 million deal to build a parking garage at Miami International Airport. The garage opened in 1997, more than a year behind schedule and with Odebrecht demanding $13.7 million for additional work and time spent on the project. The county settled for $3.7 million. That should have been the end of Odebrecht's run with the county. It wasn't.

Tomorrow, I'll detail how the firm has received more than $1 billion in county construction contracts over the past decade despite continually finishing projects behind schedule and charging taxpayers more money to complete jobs.

Thursday, I'll document how Odebrecht and the firm's top Miami executive curry favor with county commissioners to maintain a lock on lucrative contracts.

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