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
Andrea Parquet-Taylor named KTVT CBS 11 news director Former KHOU 11 assistant news director Andrea Parquet-Taylor named Vice President, News Director for KTVT CBS 11 Andrea...
Update:4 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
VIDEO: KPRC 2 10pm newscast (1-24-99) ...
Update:4 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
Luke Bryan to sing National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI on FOX ​ Country music superstar LUKE BRYAN will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston...
Update:4 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
Key of “Key & Peele” to host NFL Honors Feb. 4 at Wortham Theater Annual Awards Show to Take Place at Wortham Theater Center in Houston on Eve of Super Bowl LI Keegan-Michael KeyPhoto Credit: Matt...
Update:4 months 1 week
Mike McGuff
KHOU 11 is first Houston TV station to use drone Drone 11 debuted on KHOU during this week's Houston flood coverage In today's world orange is the new black, energy drinks are the new...
Update:4 months 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
KTRK abc13 dominated January 2017 flood coverage CLICK TO ENLARGE The overnight results (provided to me by KTRK) from the January 18, 2017 flood event show abc13 winning the Live Same Day...
Update:4 months 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
CBS Radio Houston throws free concert with Jake Owen, The Last Bandoleros and more CBS RADIO Houston and BBVA Compass have teamed up to host “Live Bright Bash,” a free stadium party for city ambassadors and volunteers...
Update:4 months 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
Rucks Russell leaves KHOU 11 After a decade plus, KHOU 11 reporter Rucks Russell leaves TV for new chapter Reporter Rucks Russell has worked at KHOU 11 so long, that...
Update:4 months 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
New KPRC building moves channel 2 into 21st century MIKEMCGUFF.COM EXCLUSIVE: As the first new TV station to be built in Houston since the 1990s, KPRC is building for the future of TV and...
Update:4 months 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
PICS: FOX 26 KRIV debuts new set 2017 It's a new set for 2017 for FOX 26 KRIV. As I wrote last month, FOX 26 started construction at the end of 2016 and temporarily moved its...
Update:4 months 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 5 years 1 week
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 5 years 1 week
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 5 years 1 week
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 5 years 1 week
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 5 years 1 week
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 5 years 1 week
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 5 years 1 week
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 5 years 1 week
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
© 2017 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement