July 10, 2019

KEY LARGO — Anonymous complaints lodged against a Key Largo Fire Rescue & Emergency Medical Services District commissioner for allegedly meddling in the bidding process were deemed to be unfounded after a Monroe County State Attorney’s Office investigation.

The complaint was centered around the board’s selection of Above All Garage Doors to replace a bay door at Station 24 after not offering two other vying companies a chance to rebid on the project.

Commissioner Frank Conklin negotiated a reduced rate from Above All Garage Doors ahead of the board’s May meeting, in which a motion to proceed with that contractor was approved.

Following that, a probe into the bidding process ensued.

Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District Commissioner Sue Heim, who regularly attends and speaks at fire district meetings, disclosed during public comment that she had reached out to the other vying companies after the vote to ensure fairness.

“The AAA [Garage Door] company, I reached out to them to ask if they had been offered an opportunity to rebid, and the person I spoke to, Tony, said ‘no,’ and he’s one of the principals of the company,” Heim said. “There are some discrepancies between what they bid the first time and what they bid the second time.”

The district’s legal counsel, Gaelan Jones, said the issue has been put to bed.

“This has since been worked out with the State Attorney’s Office,” Jones told the board. “We cooperated fully and provided them a copy of the district’s purchasing policy, the audio of the last meeting, the quotes that we had gotten, and, after some discussions with the State Attorney’s investigators, the district has been exonerated of any wrongdoing.”

He said his legal firm has billed the district for approximately 3.4 hours of legal work to review materials, research and correspond with relevant parties.

“In reality, it probably took about four to five hours of actual time spent,” he wrote to the Free Press.

Jones said another complaint was filed involving a painting contract for a separate station.

“We received a second complaint in the Station 25 painting process,” he said. “Again, we complied with the State Attorney’s Office and the district has been cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Without mentioning any names, Chairman Tony Allen said when people meddle in the bidding process, it tends to confuse matters.

“If there’s someone who has been tasked with the job, please let them handle it,” Allen said.

It’s unclear how many hours the State Attorney’s Office, another tax-supported entity, spent on the investigation.

In other news:

  • The district’s ambulance service provider, the Key Largo Volunteer Ambulance Corps, has proposed a 3 percent wage increase for its full-time administrative position and three full-time paramedics. This includes 104 sick hours each, six holidays each and 160 vacation hours each for a total of $23,443 in increased wage fees. Also, a $500 deputy chief of administration volunteer reimbursement is slated for its 2019-20 budget. Corporation president Scott Robinson currently serves in that role. Robinson said that the Key Largo Volunteer Ambulance Corps will remain with its current accountant after renegotiating the hourly fee from $120 to $60 per hour. The new rate will go into effect in August.
  • The board nodded approval to sell its old fire truck at Station 24 and the International box truck that served the former dive rescue operational arm of the fire department.
  • The district fire-rescue service provider, the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department, reportedly spent $22,000 in materials extinguishing the Bungalows Key Largo fire on May 5. The county tax collector’s records show that the resort paid $61,246 in property taxes for the current fiscal year, of which $6,822 was paid to the Key Largo Fire Rescue & Emergency Services District.

The next Key Largo Fire Rescue and Emergency Medical Services meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, July 22, at Station 24 located at 1 East Road in Key Largo. For information, visit http://www.klfirerescueems.com.

tjava@keysnews.com