Hialeah council members recently awarded a contract worth $689,000, without publicly advertising it.
The company that landed the contract is tied to a Miami businessman who just beat federal criminal charges in an unusual case.
The contract is to build-out the inside of Hialeah’s Milander auditorium. The businessman is Arturo Marrero, whom the government accused of conspiring to smuggle cigarettes in and out of the Port of Miami, without paying millions of dollars in customs duties.
Marrero is listed in state records as the president of MVP Builders, which manages the company Builder’s Choice Restoration. Builder’s Choice Restoration is the company contracted by Hialeah to finish the inside of Hialeah’s Milander auditorium.
Marrero insisted he was innocent from the time he was indicted in September 2010, to the time he was acquitted in January.
“He was one of those who was totally innocent. It doesn’t happen often,” said Joseph Rosenbaum, the attorney who represented Marrero for the case. “We never had to put on our case, our witnesses, because the government just did not have the evidence. And the judge at the close of the government’s case dismissed the case.”
When his trial was over, Marrero, who said he spent $700,000 in legal fees, sued the government to recoup the money he spent in his defense. He lost the case, but his experience still marks his life, Marrero wrote in an email.
Now, Marrero works with “different nonprofit organizations that help those that have been wrongly accused by the government,” he wrote. “There are innocent people out there who are not as fortunate as I am that can afford good legal defense to stop government abuse.”
He is also writing a book about his “hellish nightmare.”
Accused of money laundering and wire/mail fraud, Marrero’s case went to trial twice. The first time it went to court, Marrero’s case ended in a mistrial after a juror, a fruit and vegetable vendor who lived in his car, solicited a bribe from the Marrero family, according to an FBI investigation. The juror claimed he could ensure a not-guilty verdict.
Marrero’s brother — Lysander Marrero, who is listed in state records as president of Builder’s Choice — reported the juror to the feds and cooperated in a sting to catch him.
Arturo Marrero was acquitted at a second trial.
“I have been an honest business person all my life and currently enjoy spending time with my wife of 26 years and 2 great kids in high school,” Marrero wrote. “I am trying to jump start my building career once again to provide for my family and certainly do not need any more negative publicity. Unfortunately the public perceives a government accusation or arrest as automatic guilt.”
The city chose Marrero’s brother’s company out of eight others that Hialeah’s construction department had asked for bids. Only three companies submitted bids by the deadline, Hialeah’s Chief of Staff, Arnie Alonso, wrote in an email.
Builder’s Choice told the city it could do the project for $689,000. That’s compared to $873,000 offered by Aaron Construction Group and $778,000 bid by Link Construction Group.
Cities contract companies for projects in several different ways. Many cities publicly post specifications of the services needed, and companies offer their price for the project. This process is called a Request for Proposals (or RFP.) The city’s elected body, often relying on staff and board recommendations, usually picks the lowest bidder that responds to the city’s RFP.
“Since Milander Auditorium is on a fast-track completion schedule, we did not go through the RFP process, which requires that the bid be advertised for a minimum of 30 days. We requested quotes for the interior build-out ... and allowed them 10 days to submit their quotes,” Alonso wrote.
He added: “Builder’s Choice Restoration was selected because they were the lowest quote and would complete the work in the shortest amount of time.”
It’s not uncommon for Hialeah to skip the public bidding process, with dozens of expedited bids approved at its twice-monthly council meetings. But the Milander bid is bigger than most.
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