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Conely, Trombley Clash Over Construction Manager for $88.4 Million Bond Issue

The Brighton Board of Education will hold a special meeting May 31 to interview construction management firms.

Two Brighton Area School Board Trustees are at odds over which construction firm should be hired to carry out the district's $88.4 million bond issue.

Trustee John Conley said it is unethical to allow one of the four companies in the running to bid on the job since Trustee Bill Trombley works for it.

"I feel like I'm going to throw up," Conely said about Granger Construction Company of Lansing putting in a bid. "This is the biggest conflict of interest. I think it's great that you have your experience and your ability, and I believe that we can utilize that ability, but I think it's bad news and a true conflict of interest."

Currently, there are four firms in the running: Clark Construction Company in Lansing, Barton Malow in Southfield, George W. Auch Company in Pontiac and Granger, where Trombley happens to work as the director of Southeast Michigan Operations.

"Here's the thing, the bonding issue cannot be understated," Maria Gistinger, assistant superintendent of finance said. "We have already been burned in this district by hiring companies that do not have the financial capability to provide construction management that we need.

"I can't emphasize how critical this decision is for the success of this bond issue," she said. "Our construction manager will make or break this project for us. So we can't just pick anybody that we think may possibly do. We have to look at their application, we have to look at their ability to bond, we have to look at their reputation as far as managing huge millions and millions of dollar projects for other school districts. We can't just entertain people who are just starting in the business or who may not have the ability to bond a multi-million dollar project."

Gistinger said she had spoken with the district's legal counsel who advised that there would need to be heavy disclosures about Trombley's relationship with the company and project as well as an abstention from the vote, which Trombley had already said he would do.

Gistinger also said that she and Superintendent Greg Gray gathered several peoples' input about how to go about hiring a construction manager for the project, not just Trombley's.

Both Conely and fellow Trustee Miles Vieau said they wanted to consider more than the current four companies on the list.

"We're building a brand new high school, we're basically doing an addition," Vieau said. "There are a lot of (smaller) companies out there who could handle that."

Gray mentioned that he wanted to stay away from smaller companies because it will be easier to manage one company rather than varous small ones to do different jobs.

Trombley said that his expertise should be welcomed by other school board members to help the district successfully execute the projects to be paid for by the bond.

"Here's my point, I want to make sure this district get's the best bang for the buck," Trombley said to Conely. "I think you would be happy to have someone who understands this process who can identify potential areas where there could be misuse of money. If you have that expertise, then by all means, please step forward and lead the charge. If you don't, then please let someone who does have it at least be able to educate you in some of these other areas, along with some of the other board members, to make sure this project is a financial success and the money is spent correctly for the things it is supposed to be spent for."

"Just as long as your company's not doing it, I'm all set," Conely said.

The school board will hold a special meeting to interview the four companies at 6 p.m. on May 31 at the . The interviews will feature scripted questions from board members. Afterwards, board members will meet alone to open the bids and possibly come to a decision.

Pamela Jurick May 22, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I agree with Conely on this one....CONFLICT OF INTEREST!!!!!!
charlotte shosey May 22, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I agree with Conely on this, also can we look into someone who is part of the Brighton area? Isnt there a local company that can handle it, lets give back to the community if so!!
Mark Konas May 22, 2012 at 04:01 PM
As long as the RFP and bid response review is done above board and selection criteria are documented and published the biggest concern is that Trombely would be able to provide inside information that would give Granger a competitive advantage.
J. Michael Lenninger May 22, 2012 at 04:13 PM
I don't see it as a conflict of interest if his company is the successful bidder and someone else makes the decision. It's not like we're lining the pockets of politicians with illegal contributions. I'd rather someone with an expertise and a local focus help us be good stewards of the bond money. Why should he be excluded from the process if it's a fair decision?
Gary Cornillaud May 22, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Mr Trombley must decide if his role on the Brighton School Board is founded on a desire to provide community service or as a vehicle for business development.
Nicole Krawcke (Editor) May 22, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Hi Charlotte. The Board is going to be looking for local businesses for subcontracting for smaller parts of the bond projects. The consensus was that there is not a local company that could manage such a large project. However, one of the questions during the interview process will be about providing local workers.
Nicole Krawcke (Editor) May 22, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Hi Mark. I don't think Trombley will be able to provide inside information to his company. The board will conduct a sealed bid for process for the construction management job. After interviewing candidates next week, then they will open the bids and have a discussion.
Sue Ellen Ikens May 23, 2012 at 02:09 AM
and Mr. Conely must decide if his role on the Brighton School Board is founded on a desire to provide community service or as a vehicle for minimizing taxes on the $1.6 million in taxable value property that he owns within the Brighton Area Schools District. It is the height of hypocrisy for him to accuse another member of the Board of conflict of interest when Conely has just used his position on the school board to gin up opposition to a bond proposal that would cost him tens of thousands of dollars in additional property taxes. Not only did Conely not recuse himself from decisions regarding bringing the Bond Proposal to ballot, but he nakedly exploited his school board membership to get press attention and ultimately outside-the-district money and opposition involved in a local issue. Retake Our Gov sent out emails, robo-calls, and even ran commercials on T.V. on Conely's anti-bond behalf. This is a man who LOVES CONFLICT, especially conflicts of interest.
J-Thaddeus P McGaffey May 23, 2012 at 03:35 PM
It is also possible for the Board to review "blind bids". This would mean that the copies of the bids that the Board review for decision have all references to the company name "blacked out". This would provide further opportunity for the board to make a decision based purely on numbers and value with out the possibility of a conflict of interest on any of their parts.
Brenda Plank May 25, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I've been a Purchasing Supervisor for many years and there are ways to minimize risks with hiring contractors. If they haven't already, the board should contact other schools in the area and ask for references on contractors they used. They may recommend a contractor that is not listed on your current bidders list. This is not a race to get the work done. This project should be well thought out and planned. I would like to add that anyone tied to making a decision to hire a contractor and has any affliation with that contractor should be removed from the bidders list. To maximize the dollars available to this project the first thing you need is clearly defined scope of work. If the scope of work is unclear, the Contractor will provide only the requirements written. You may end up with unsatisfactory product at the end. With a project as large as this, someone needs to spend time and making sure the requirements are well defined. Otherwise, you will receive a shotty job or you will pay more through change orders. I voted yes on this bond because I have faith in the decision makers not to make bad choices when it comes to spending the tax payers money. I would be willing to assist, at no charge to our community, to review the bids, proposals, contracts and the scope of work. Brenda Plank

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