LOCAL SPIN: Fight On, Fort Ord
The Fort Ord Reuse Authority sues its contractor, releases invoices to the public.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
February 2012, page 6 of 8: $537,722.92.
That’s the cost of non-specific “professional services” in the $1.1 million monthly bill sent to the Fort Ord Reuse Authority by Arcadis U.S., the lead contractor in the massive multi-year cleanup of the former Army base. The amount is payable to Pennsylvania-based Weston Solutions, an environmental remediation group which on its website calls itself “The Trusted Integrator for Sustainable Solutions.”
February 2012, page 2 of 8: $386.11. That’s the amount three Arcadis employees charged FORA for breakfasts, lunches and dinners between Jan. 23 and Jan. 29, presumably meals taken while traveling on FORA business.
March 2012, page 1 of 43: $1,220.45. That’s the amount three out-of-town Arcadis employees billed FORA for a combined nine days of lodging at Hotel Abrego, which, correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t in Marina, where FORA is based and where the bulk of Fort Ord remediation is taking place.
If Arcadis had its way, the details of its billings to FORA would have remained a well-kept secret. A February letter sent by Arcadis Associate Vice President Kristie Reimer to FORA attorney Jerry Bowden, in response to a Public Records Act request from local preservationist group Keep Fort Ord Wild, spells it out:
“GIVEN THE MILLION-DOLLAR-PER-MONTH BILLS, WE’D EXPECT TO SEE SOME PERFORMANCE METRICS. ”
“Our position is that the following should not be released: Any and all invoices including attachments, whether to FORA or [insurance company] Chartis, because it includes billing rates, personnel information, markups, pricing, cost of services, production and resource information, that is proprietary and represents confidential business information… and can be used by a competitor to our disadvantage.”
Knowing that Arcadis employee Chris Spill spent $38.85 on dinner on Feb. 23 doesn’t seem to be proprietary information. And frankly, if Arcadis’ competitors don’t know that Arcadis charges an hourly rate of between $82 for a project assistant and $328 for a senior principal, they shouldn’t consider themselves competitive.
For a while, FORA went along with the program and said it had turned over whatever documents in its possession it was allowed to turn over.
In March, Keep Fort Ord Wild filed suit against FORA and asked a judge to order the authority to comply with the California Public Records Act. KFOW wanted FORA to produce the invoices detailing how a $99.3 million grant from the U.S. Army has been spent on cleanup since 2007.
On April 20, FORA turned around and filed a cross-complaint against Arcadis. See, FORA, poor thing, had withheld certain documents under instruction from Arcadis. In other words, it wasn’t FORA’s fault if it violated public records law, because its private contractor told it to.
FORA contends Arcadis should be required to pay KFOW’s attorney fees, and that it had to file the cross-complaint so Arcadis would step up and defend its own confidentiality interests.
Then three days later, on April 23, FORA turned over five years’ worth of Arcadis invoices to KFOW attorney Molly Erickson of the Monterey law offices of Michael Stamp. Arcadis, according to FORA attorney David Balch, changed its mind and told FORA to turn over the documents.
“Arcadis withdrew its claim of confidentiality. It could be they decided it’s not worth the fight,” Balch says. “They’re still compiling some of the documents. It’s frustrating to me and to FORA because if this was going to be their position, they could have told us this back in February. But now the parties do seem to be working together.”
Erickson says the invoices are a start, but don’t entirely explain what her client wants to know.
“On behalf of Keep Fort Ord Wild, I asked FORA if it had seen a map showing what work had been done, and where – how much acreage has been cleaned, how much acreage is in progress, and how much acreage had not yet been started to be cleaned. But no, FORA does not have that information in any one place or in accessible form,” Erickson says. “Given the million-dollar-per-month bills from Arcadis, we’d expect to see some metrics as to the performance of the $88 million contract. But we have not any such metrics. So neither the public nor FORA can measure Arcadis’ performance.”
Reimer, the Arcadis vice president, didn’t return a call left early Wednesday morning on deadline requesting comment. The invoices are online at www.mcweekly.com.
If Arcadis ends up having to pay Keep Fort Ord Wild’s attorney fees as a result of the cross-complaint, hey, it might not be so bad for them. The contractor can always generate a vague line item charge and slip it into their FORA billing.
It’s possible nobody will question it.
Mary Duan is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at email@example.com or twitter.com/maryrduan. Assistant Editor Kera Abraham contributed to this story.