House Speaker Mike Hubbard denied any involvement on Tuesday in what his attorney contended were allegations of bid-rigging by one of his House colleagues. The Auburn Republican said he never met the owner of the company, never solicited or received any contributions from the company or its owner, and did not have any ownership in DSI Security Services.
Hubbard, who testified in a Montgomery courtroom on Tuesday, was responding to allegations made in a lawsuit filed by DTA Security against DSI Security Services, the Alabama Legislature and the chief of security for the House of Representatives, Derrick Hamilton.
Rep. Joe Hubbard, a Montgomery Democrat and local attorney, filed the lawsuit on behalf of DTA, which has had the security contract at the Alabama State House for about 20 years.
A Montgomery judge dismissed the lawsuit on Tuesday stating that the security contract was exempt from state bid laws, although Circuit Judge Eugene Reese wrote that there was an error in the request for proposals given to vendors.
Joe Hubbard said in court earlier in the day that they would agree, after testimony from the speaker and DSI officials, to amend the lawsuit and drop the portion of the lawsuit related to Mike Hubbard’s alleged relationship with the company and its owner. He said that claim was based on an affidavit from a security officer at the State House who was not identified until Tuesday because of the threat of retaliation. Another attorney pointed out that officer works for DTA.
Joe Hubbard said, regardless of the language used by Mike Hubbard’s attorneys, he never accused the speaker of bid rigging and never accused him of being involved in the bid process.
“Upon information and belief, Hamilton was designated by the speaker … to develop the requirements and specifications for the contract, issue the request for proposal (RFP), and award the contract,” according to the lawsuit. “The awarding of the contract on or about Aug. 9, 2013, was unlawful in that it violated Alabama’s competitive bid law … by rejecting the bid of DTA, which was the ‘lowest responsible bidder’ under the specifications of the RFP, and awarding the contract to a company in which Mike Hubbard has a direct or indirect financial or personally beneficial interest.”
Joe Hubbard said he was representing his client and including what he believed to be an accurate allegation that allowed him to go through the discovery phase to determine related facts in the case including who owned the company and which public officials company officials had contributed to.
“I have no problem admitting I had bad information,” Joe Hubbard said. “ … I made allegations that I believed to be true.”
But, he said he made every effort ahead of the hearing to work with attorneys for Mike Hubbard and DSI to clear up those issues.
“Joe Hubbard apparently runs his law practice like he operates in the Legislature, he shoots off his mouth first and determines facts later,” according to a statement from the speaker’s office. “None of the allegations in this frivolous lawsuit are true and it’s outrageous that taxpayer dollars will be wasted on this desperate, unfounded and dishonest attempt to grab headlines.”
Joe Hubbard said the issue could have been addressed sooner and the lawsuit could have been amended, but the other attorneys did not cooperate and brought Speaker Hubbard into court Tuesday to “ambush me.” He said he had been told Hubbard would not testify.
“The speaker and his allies decided to hold that information from me and my clients and then spring it on us at the hearing,” Joe Hubbard said. He said the speaker taking the stand was “political grandstanding,” a “political sideshow,” and an effort to try the case in the court of public opinion – not in the court room.
After Mike Hubbard denied the allegations in the lawsuit on the witness stand, Joe Hubbard did not cross-examine the speaker. The speaker said he was not involved in the bid process and when asked if he had a personal relationship with DSI board Chairman Alan Clark, Hubbard said “I’ve never met him.”
“They sandbagged me to turn this into a political sideshow,” Joe Hubbard said. “ … There are some that wanted to turn this into a political sideshow and score political points … I was doing a job for a client.”
Joe Hubbard said the other side presented testimony on Tuesday that “discredited allegations in my complaint.”
Clark and his son testified that they did not know Mike Hubbard, had not contributed to him and that the business has always been owned by their family. Clark said he never contributed to Mike Hubbard, but did contribute to the campaigns of Rep. Steve Clouse of Ozark, Rep. Paul Lee of Dothan, Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery, and Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb.
When asked on the witness stand if he had evidence that Mike Hubbard influenced Hamilton in the bid process, DTA vice president Ray Rawlings said “I don’t have any evidence.” Rawlings, when asked, said he contributed to Joe Hubbard when he was running for the Legislature. Rawlings said they attend the same church.
Hamilton said Mike Hubbard had no involvement in the bid process or in the selection. Hubbard said he did not know the bid process was ongoing.
Chris Weller, a Montgomery attorney representing the speaker in his official capacity, said Joe Hubbard’s own witness refuted the allegations in the lawsuit and, while Joe Hubbard had an affidavit from a witness, that witness was not willing to testify and be cross-examined.
“That’s not a good basis for a lawsuit,” Weller said, adding especially when it affects a family-owned business and a public official. He said they attempted to have Hubbard drop the allegations about the speaker for two weeks.
If the allegations about the speaker were true, Joe Hubbard said the contract could have been voided. He said state law would not allow an employee of an agency with direct or indirect interest in a business to benefit personally whether it was the speaker or another House member.
Joe Hubbard said he wanted his client to have a fair opportunity to compete for the contract under the state’s bid law.
Legislative officials selected DSI’s $195,000 bid for the one-year security contract to provide guards to secure entrances to the State House and screen visitors beginning Oct. 1. The bid was the lowest of the three submitted.
Reese originally placed a temporary restraining order on the contract, but dissolved that on Tuesday.
Joe Hubbard contends the contract was improperly awarded in violation of the state bid law and that, if the Legislature chose to bid out the contract, they were compelled to follow the requirements.
Hubbard and his clients argue that the request for proposal stated “compensation for security services performed shall be $15 per hour for each of the 5 security guards.”
Rawlings said they understood from the RFP that they were supposed to bid $15 an hour for each of the officers.
Meanwhile, DSI bid $10.99 an hour for unarmed guards and $11.99 an hour for armed guards. A third firm also bid less than $15.
“We’re obviously the only ones that can read,” Rawlings said.
Reese wrote that the proposal should have stated the maximum was $15 an hour.
When asked by Joe Hubbard where in the documents it stated $15 was the maximum rate, Hamilton said there was a “clear understanding” and that the vendors were encouraged to submit a competitive rate.
“I made it clear to each vendor that the maximum rate was $15,” Hamilton said. “ … There was no miscommunication. There was no misunderstanding.”
But Joe Hubbard and DTA officials argued they were never informed that $15 was the maximum.
“Everybody else was under $15 because they were told to,” Joe Hubbard said.
Rawlings said the billing rate should have never been in the RFP and “somebody at the State House made a mistake.”
Attorney Ham Wilson, representing the Legislature and Hamilton, said all three of the potential vendors were told the contract was going to be bid out and that it was “common sense” that they would not all bid $15 an hour for each of the officers because the companies would not make any money.
“They’re obviously upset they didn’t get the bid,” Wilson said.
Joe Hubbard feels his client was “tricked” in the bid process, which he contended was not fair. DTA Security has been awarded the contract for about 20 years and never gone through a bid process. According to attorneys, legislative officials including Clerk of the House Jeff Woodard decided to go through a bid process to save the state money. DTA once billed the state up to $20 an hour, with that being the top level for a manager, down a scale going down for the 13 officers.
Now, after cutbacks due to state budget issues, the contract is for five officers.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen