By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf
Comptroller Peter Franchot turned up the heat on Morgan State University officials at the Board of Public Works Meeting Wednesday, accusing them of selecting their dining services contractor with a biased eye.
“This stinks,” Franchot said. “It’s just handed with a big bow-tie around it to to the incumbent.”
The university recently accepted a $35 million bid with Thompson Hospitality Services, a food service company and current contractor with Morgan State. But two other companies were disqualified before Morgan officials even reviewed the financials in the bid they placed, because they failed to meet either the technical or Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) standards set by the university.
Franchot called the companies’ disqualification “arbitrary” and said it appeared Thompson was selected because Morgan officials knocked out the competition.
Five-year contract approved
Morgan State turned down bids from Metz Culinary Management and Sodexo before looking at the numbers. Maryland’s procurement regulations dictate that if the bidder doesn’t meet the basic standards, financial information is sent back to the proposer unopened, according to Morgan State spokesman Clinton Coleman.
Thompson is poised to operate dining services for all of the school’s students, faculty and staff through the five-year contract approved by the Board of Public Works Wednesday. This encompasses board and commuter meal plans, as well as management of catering and concession services.
Franchot called on Morgan officials to restart the bid collection process, despite Thompson’s current contract with the school expiring May 30.
Minority requirements disqualified one firm
Lois Whitaker, a Morgan State official, said few businesses applied during the bid-gathering phase, making the bid competition that Franchot wanted difficult.
“We can’t make anyone bid,” she said during the meeting.
The MBE program dictates that a company hire a certain percentage of minority-owned subcontractors in an attempt to promote minority businesses.
A company may request a waiver of the MBE requirement, but Metz Culinary was deemed non-responsive because they failed to submit that waiver, according to Coleman. The Pennsylvania-based service provider attained a 35% MBE compliance rating, 5% below the school’s goal of 40%.
Sodexo did not reach the minimum technical score of 55 required by Morgan, falling just short at 52. The technical score evaluates a company’s history and standards in housekeeping, maintenance of facilities, and Human Resource practices.
When asked if the school considered accepting the bids, which fell short of the school’s standards by a tiny margin, Coleman cited the state’s rules for procurement.
BPW approved vote 2-1
Thompson will manage Morgan’s dining operations from June 2014 until the end of May 2019, with the option to renew every year for an additional five years, bringing the contract’s total value to approximately $78 million if the university renews all five years.
Franchot was the sole board member to vote against the proposal, though Treasurer Nancy Kopp also criticized the forms used for businesses to bid and request the MBE waiver.
Zenita Wickham Hurley, special secretary of minority affairs, said during the meeting that MBE goals for dining services contracts tend to fall lower than 40%, but vary between institutions.
“With this particular contract, the University determined there were a number of different subcontractor opportunities, thus the 40% goal,” she said.
Gov. Martin O’Malley, who chairs the Board of Public Works, did not comment during debate on the contract.