Adding another twist to the already tangled awarding of a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars — and potentially giving ammunition to a challenge by the losing bidder — it was reported this week that New Orleans Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant previously worked for one of the companies he recommended should oversee construction of a new terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport.
Grant worked for Parsons Corp., one of the firms involved in the Parsons Odebrecht joint venture that he and other members of an evaluation committee last week scored as the best choice to manage construction of the $546 million terminal.
He worked for Parsons prior to becoming deputy secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development in 2004, according to his official biography on the city’s website.
The connection between Grant and Parsons is not illegal but could add a new element of contention to a selection process that already has been complicated by an initial tie score between Parsons Odebrecht and a competing joint venture, Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro, and a formal protest by the latter group arguing the evaluation committee did not properly score the proposals.
Grant’s previous employment with Parsons was first reported by WDSU-TV on Wednesday night.
Grant managed road and highway infrastructure projects for Parsons while based in Atlanta, according to his biography.
Parsons, based in California, and Odebrecht, based in Brazil, have done projects as a joint venture for more than a decade.
State ethics laws would not bar Grant from involvement in a decision on a Parsons contract because he no longer works for the company.
After initially deadlocking on whether to recommend Parsons Odebrecht or Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro earlier this month, the 11-person evaluation committee charged with making a recommendation to the New Orleans Aviation Board on which company should win the contract voted for Parsons Odebrecht last week.
That swing was almost entirely the result of Grant and other committee members dropping their scores for Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro, largely on the basis that the person who would manage the airport project for that consortium had not handled similar kinds of contracts and that Parsons Odebrecht’s promise to bid out more of the work on the project could mean more small local firms would get work.
During his second evaluation, Grant dropped his score for Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro by 22 out of 100 points, while dropping Parsons Odebrecht’s score by four points.
Two other city employees on the committee, Place-Based Planning Director William Gilchrist and Project Management Supervisor Laverne McSwain, also dropped their scores for the company. Both Gilchrist and McSwain work in departments that are within Grant’s responsibilities as deputy mayor in charge of capital projects and infrastructure.
Judith Kinnard, an architecture professor at Tulane University, also dropped her score for the Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro proposal.
The final selection of a contractor is now on hold after Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro filed a formal protest this week against the selection process.
That protest alleges the committee’s initial scores did not adequately credit Hunt’s proposal for spending less on fees and overhead and argues that the Hunt group was unfairly punished for a technical issue with one firm’s certification as a minority-owned business.
Were it not for those issues, the second scoring would never have occurred because the company — a partnership of Hunt Construction Group, Gibbs Construction, Boh Bros. Construction LLC and Metro Services Group — would have been recommended in the initial round of scoring, according to the protest letter.
Daniel Lund III, an attorney representing Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro, said he could not comment on Grant’s situation because of the ongoing procurement process.
“We will review the matter within the correct protocols of that process,” Lund said.
The Mayor’s Office released a statement saying, “The city attorney reviewed the issue and determined that Grant’s participation on the review committee ... did not present a conflict. In fact, as one of eleven members on the review committee, Mr. Grant brought significant expertise in construction management to the table, having also served as the deputy secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development from 2004 to 2008.”