Architect Takes Appeal on Protest to Commission
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Rebuffed by the city staff in its protest in May of the choice of a design architect for the Highland Recreation Center upgrading, Wannemacher Jensen Architects, Inc., has directed an appeal to the Largo City Commission.
Wannemacher Jensen sent its appeal on the bid protest to members of the commission two weeks ago, along with supporting documentation. No action has yet been taken by the commission in accepting the appeal or setting a date.
On May 10, Ed Armstrong, a lawyer representing Wannemacher Jensen, sent a protest to the city opposing the award of the recreation center's design services to Gould Evans Associates, a firm ranked first by the commission among three finalists.
Jensen Wannemacher of St. Petersburg was listed second and an Orlando firm, Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative, was ranked third in pursuit of the $2.6 million contract.
Mike Staffopolous, an assistant city manager, in late May rejected the allegations of "numerous factual misrepresentations and omissions made by Gould Evans in its written bid submittal and in its oral presentation to the City Commission," made in Armstrong's letter on behalf of Jensen Wannemacher.
Staffopoulos's response said that Gould Evans' work references and presentation were not incorrect and that the firm was qualified to do the work.
Among claims being made by Jensen Wannemacher, according to Jason Jensen of the firm, is that Gould Evans made 10 "misrepresentations and falsifications," including the "inflation of resume project roles, inflating the number of architects in their office to 8 when they only have 4 licensed architects, violating a state statute by calling a team member an architect who is not an architect and not giving credit…to other architects whom they teamed with to complete presented projects."
Jensen also said that during the City Commission interviews, "Commissioner (Robert) Murray asked if any of the projects came in over budget. (Gould Evans) did not disclose…that a recent project came in 7 million dollars over budget and Steve Carpenter (of Gould Evans) stated that 'he could not remember any.'"
Jensen wrote, "There is clear evidence that Gould Evans made multiple misrepresentations in an effort to be ranked number 1 for this project. The City of Largo should not reward such actions with a contract and taxpayer dollars."
In the appeal addressed to the City Commission and signed by Jensen and Lisa Wannemacher they say, "We are filing this appeal to give you and the public evidence to make your own decision. Our goal is to state that we have reasonable ethical concerns regarding the Gould Evans proposal and to maintain Wannemacher Jensen's professional integrity regarding this protest."
It continued, "If Gould Evans actual qualifications are different than what was presented for your review than your right to make a fair comparison was taken away…Largo code does not tolerate the falsification of employee resumes and should not tolerate the falsification of a private companies (sic) resume."
The Jensen-Wannemacher letter to the commission pointed out that "We did not take this protest lightly and in 18 years it is the only protest WJA has ever filed."
In a direct rebuttal to Staffopolous's rejection of their protest, Jensen Wannemacher took issue with the Largo official's statement that "it is my conclusion that Gould Evans has not 'materially' falsely represented or misrepresented the qualifications of the firm or its proposed design team members."
Jensen Wannemacher said, "…the definition of the word 'material' in legal terminology is 'the subject matter of the statement or concealment related to a fact or circumstances which would be important to the decision to be made.' This definition does not state that falsifications were not made, but that they were not important to the decision.
"We request that staff clarify this statement in reference to 'material misrepresentation' for the City Commission. Is staff's position that the individual assertions…are true but not 'material' the commission ranking decision?
"The City Commission interviewed and ranked the firms. Therefore they are the only ones who can evaluate whether these misrepresentations would be important to their decision and whether these misrepresentations are 'material' to their decision."
Return to Current Edition