al_lamberti__web_4.jpegFORT LAUDERDALE — A procurement policy implemented by Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti has allowed a five percent local preference cost added to contracts for goods and services, in an apparent effort to boost Broward County-based businesses.

The first contract awarded under the 2009 policy cost taxpayers more than $93,000 in extra payment for the purchase of squad cars.

The policy was implemented at a time when Lamberti was preparing to lay off 177 employees, and county commissioners were demanding a $54 million cut in his $700 million annual budget.

BSO Media Relations Director Jim Leljedal said he would respond to questions submitted by South Florida Times, but he did not respond by deadline.

Duval Ford, located in Jacksonville, which had a contract to supply vehicles to the state through the Florida Sheriff’s Association quoted $21,718 for each of the 130 cars BSO planned to purchase.

But BSO awarded the contract to Maroone Ford of Fort Lauderdale, whose quote at $22,434.30, was 3.3 percent higher than Duval Ford’s but well within the local preference allowed by Lamberti’s policy change.

Michael Albetta, business development manager at Maroone, said Glen Carpenter, then a fleet manager with the company, negotiated the contract with BSO. He said Carpenter was no longer with Maroone.

“Yes, I remember the bid and we were successful,” Albetta said.

A memo dated Jan. 15, 2009 outlined the process.

“In implementing this procedure, the Purchasing Bureau secured a quotation for the purchase of pursuit vehicles from Duval Ford in Jacksonville, Florida, the low bidder for said vehicles on the FSA [Florida Sheriff’s Association] contract. Maroone Ford, a local Broward County vendor, was contacted and supplied a price for the identical vehicles,” states the memo, which was signed by Lamberti authorizing the $2,916,459 contract to Maroone.

The sheriff, property appraiser, state attorney, supervisor of elections and public defender are all constitutional offices in Broward County. Under state law, they have the authority to set procurement policies for their agencies, including awarding no-bid contracts.

According to the five percent local preference policy that Lamberti put in place:

“When another Governmental Agency, Sheriff’s Association or municipality has competitively bid goods, general services, or professional services and has awarded the solicitation to the lowest responsive, responsible bidder, the Sheriff has the option, at his sole discretion to award the bid to the responsive, responsible local Broward County business if the local business is within five percent (5%) of the price of the awarded vendor.”

Local vendor preferences are commonplace among some governmental agencies. They are intended to keep tax dollars circulating in a local economy.

BSO awards dozens of contracts totaling more than $160 million for equipment and services annually and the five percent preference could be substantial.

Other agencies explained their procurement policies to South Florida Times:

Broward County has “a local preference ordinance of 10 percent, I believe,” County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger said, adding, “But ours offers them a chance to lower their price to match the low bidder, if they are within 10 percent of the low bidder.”

“The Broward State Attorney's Office follows the purchasing guidelines of the State of Florida and the Florida Prosecuting Attorney's Association. Because we're a state agency, we purchase most of what we need utilizing Florida state-approved contract agreements,” said Ron Ishoy, a spokesman for the Broward State Attorney’s Office.

Ron Gunzburger, general counsel for the Broward Property Appraiser’s Office, said the office puts all substantial contracts out to bid.

Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said his agency’s policy is to find the lowest cost.

“We buy our supplies from the cheapest source possible,” Finkelstein said. “Budgets are tight and that’s where we buy from.”

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes’ office did not respond to questions.