in Houston, Texas

Metro says it lacks expertise to manage light-rail project; hired $2,400/day consultant who is associate of Metro CEO

files/2009/07/lightrailatmuseumdistrictstation.jpg
Thursday, Jul 16, 2009, 07:00AM CST
By Rosanna Ruiz
HOUSTON -- A former colleague of Metro's chief executive officer stands to make more than $500,000 in a year and a half as a consultant for the transit agency, overseeing Houston's light rail contract.

Metro didn't seek any competing bids for its contract with California-based consultant Clyde H. Garrison Jr., who used to work in Los Angeles with Metro CEO Frank J. Wilson. Metro has extended Garrison's contract three times since hiring him last summer. The current contract pays him $300 per hour and lasts through next spring.

The consultant was needed because the agency doesn't have staff with the know-how to oversee the $1.46 billion light-rail contract, and hiring him was cheaper than hiring full-time staff, Wilson said.

But a transportation policy expert says he doesn't understand why Metro's experts aren't up to the job.

"That (contract) belongs to the agency," said Michael Ennis, transportation director of the Washington Policy Center for Transportation. "You don't need a consultant."

Metro entered contract negotiations with Parsons Transportation Group in April of last year, when it announced the firm would be the contractor on the North, East End, Uptown and Southeast rail lines after negotiations failed with another firm. The firm will design, build, operate and manage the four new rail lines.

Construction is set to start this month.

Last July, the transit agency turned to consultant Garrison to help land the deal.  He was hired under terms of what Metro calls a personal, or sole-source, contract which releases the agency from the usual rules on using small or minority-owned businesses. But here's the kicker: No competing bids are required under such contracts.

Read the Metro contract documents here.

Wilson told the transit agency's board members that no one in-house had Garrison's level of expertise.

Garrison's contract was at one point set to expire in spring 2008 2009.

“Beyond the six months ... there are no plans to further require the services of the consultant," according to a contract document.

After Parsons and Metro reached an agreement in April, Garrison's contract was extended again so he could help monitor the project. Garrison will be paid as much as $250,000 for another year's work, or as much as $2,400 per day.


Why was a consultant needed?


Wilson said the agency doesn't have workers with construction oversight experience, and that it was simply not "timely" to bring them on before now as the project moves from the design phase.

He said hiring Garrison made better economic sense.

Wilson

"We'll be bringing in people into position for the right phase of work," Wilson said.

While hiring a consultant is certainly not unique to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, some question why the agency still doesn't have staff members that can manage the contract. The agency has been negotiating the contract to add rail lines since January 2007.

“It’s hard to imagine that a transit agency wouldn’t have the time to manage a contract, particularly a project as significant as this one," said Ennis, of the Washington Policy Center for Transportation. The center is a Seattle-based research group with a policy bent on "market solutions."

Ennis

Wilson and Garrison both balked at the charge, saying they have very different roles.

“He’s running a big transit agency,” Garrison, 77, said from his home in Corona, Calif. “He doesn’t have time to get down in the trenches and monitor a contract.”

Paul Magaziner, a Houston business leader who has spent considerable time researching Metro's light-rail plan, said he was not surprised that an outside consultant was needed to monitor the contract.

"It doesn't really surprise me that they're not quite ready to go," said Magaziner, a frequent critic of the agency.

He also pointed out that Garrison had replaced a previous consultant, Frank Russo, who had been paid considerably to handle negotiations with Washington Group International, Metro’s preferred contractor. That deal soured last year when the two sides were hundreds of millions of dollars apart following more than a year of negotiations.

Story continues ...


Contractor's qualifications; full-time workers to be hired by the end of the year. On page 2.

Homepage photo: One of Metro's light rail trains leaves the Museum District station. Texas Watchdog photo by Jennifer Peebles.

Creative Commons License
This investigative report by Texas Watchdog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Comments
Be the first to post a comment.
Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Hanover Locks Down Kirby Court Apartments Plot; Theresa Roemer’s Closet’s Music Video Debut Texas Homes Sales On Track To Have Highest Sales Volume in State’s History [Houston Chronicle] 7 Projects That Will Change the City...
Update:1 hour 24 min
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Sunshine Ranch Estranged Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Sun shine, sun...
Update:1 hour 55 min
Swamplot
6th Annual Mega 101 Children’s Miracle Network Radiotón 6th ANNUAL MEGA 101 CHILDREN’S MIRACLE NETWORK RADIOTÓN, DECEMBER 8 AND 9 Marconi Award winning Spanish Station of the Year, Mega...
Update:11 hours 50 min
Mike McGuff
Sussy Ruiz named Telemundo Houston assistant news director Sussy Ruiz has been named as Assistant News Director at Telemundo Houston KTMD according to an internal memo obtained by...
Update:14 hours 4 min
Mike McGuff
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Laid Bare 1714 Cherryhurst St. … Read...
Update:16 hours 10 min
Swamplot
Uptown Tasti D-Lite Replaced by Coffee, Crepes, Grapes Place The back-alley Post Oak strip center corner previously occupied by a franchise of not-quite-ice-cream purveyor Tasti D-Lite appears now...
Update:16 hours 54 min
Swamplot
COTD: Is A Little Bit of Historic Preservation Worse Than None At All? “A little late for that. There are so many new homes and townhomes and vacant lots in the area that there is almost no historic...
Update:18 hours 9 min
Swamplot
About That Room Full of Dangling Cartoons In Park Place A few readers were curious about the detached backyard room densely strewn with drawings of clowns and other cartoonish figures that made...
Update:19 hours 24 min
Swamplot
There’s Still Time To Send In Nominations for the 2016 Swamplot Awards, If You’re Quick Last Tuesday we started introducing the categories for the 2016 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate — that means this Tuesday is...
Update:21 hours 25 min
Swamplot
A Quick Inventory of Up-and-Coming Storage Centers North of Washington Ave. Now rising at 1202 Shepherd Dr., atop the former sites of the Sarco Enterprise used car lot and its various adjacent industrial-retail...
Update:22 hours 25 min
Swamplot
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 4 years 6 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 4 years 6 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 4 years 6 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 4 years 6 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 4 years 6 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 4 years 6 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 4 years 6 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 4 years 6 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
© 2016 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement