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| Columns |

When It Comes to Feeding the Elderly, Political Connections Help

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​Today, Miami-Dade County Commissioner

Natacha Seijas will wave her nefarious wand to help a longtime county

vendor hold on to a multimillion dollar contract to feed the

handicapped and the elderly for at least another month. The county

commission is set to vote on the extension with Esteban Bencomo's

Construction Catering Inc. even though the move will cost taxpayers

$250,000.

The Miami-based caterer can thank the wicked witch of the northwest who championed his services over a competitor that had beat out Construction Catering for a new contract by offering a lower price.

The Construction Catering extension shows how county commissioners use their powers to help their campaign supporters continue getting county business. Seijas went to bat for Bencomo during the January 11 meeting of the county commission's Internal Management & Fiscal Responsibility Committee.

County staff recommended awarding the bulk of a $10 million five-year contract to Hialeah-based Montoya Holdings Inc., a company that has food contracts with the state Department of Health and Miami-Dade Public Schools. The county's procurement director Miriam Singer informed the committee that the new deal was nine percent less than what the county was paying Construction Catering the past two years.

Even though Construction Catering was awarded a small portion of the new deal, Seijas sought to delay the award to Montoya Holdings. "I don't want to engage in any discussion on this," Seijas said during the committee meeting. "I have a long list of questions."

She made the motion to extend Construction Catering's current contract for 30 days while staff answered her questions. "I want to know has anyone tasted it?" Seijas barked. "The savings will be from the mouths of the elderly and I am not about save money in what they eat. If anything else we have to feed our elderly and our children correctly. I have some concerns...30 days are more than enough that we can alleviate those concerns."

Following Seijas' lead were commissioners Jose "Pepe" Diaz and Barbara Jordan, who also claimed to have questions about the winning bidder and the new contract. "It might be perfectly fine," Diaz remarked. "But I have learned to be very cautious...at least in my conscience I want to double check."

Jordan claimed she wanted to make sure "quality is the top priority here and not just the cost factor."

The only commissioner to show any sense of fiscal accountability was Carlos Gimenez. "Not that I want the cheapest food but if everyone bid on the same items and we got a better price," he said, "then unless someone demonstrates otherwise, I think I am going to go with the recommendation from staff."

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