In a surprise move, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday vetoed county commissioners’ decision to award a controversial contract to wrap baggage at Miami International Airport.
Last week, a veto-proof majority of the commission rejected Gimenez’s recommendation to hire TrueStar USA, the county-owned airport’s current vendor, and instead chose Safe Wrap, the second-place bidder that held the coveted concession for nine years until 2010.
Nine of 11 commissioners present at the March 5 meeting voted to reject TrueStar — more than the two-thirds majority required to override a mayoral veto. The board then voted unanimously to hire Safe Wrap.
But Gimenez vetoed both votes anyway — a move that will force commissioners to reconsider their decisions at their next meeting in April. Sustaining the vetoes would likely require a couple of commissioners to change their votes, depending on how many commissioners, and which ones, are present.
On Wednesday, TrueStar sued the county, asking the Miami-Dade Circuit Court to prohibit Gimenez’s administration from entering into a contract with Safe Wrap. The lawsuit argues that commissioners’ votes last week violated the county’s procurement process.
Thursday’s vetoes were the mayor’s first since January 2012, when he wielded his executive authority to disapprove of commissioners’ votes against imposing a contentious concession on the county’s labor unions. Without a supermajority to override the vetoes, the commission later imposed the concession.
The baggage-wrap vetoes will almost certainly reignite a political frenzy at County Hall, where the lucrative contract to encase luggage in clingy plastic to prevent theft has for years drawn packs of lobbyists.
“I don’t think what was done at that meeting was the right thing to do,” Gimenez told The Miami Herald. “We’re leaving a lot of money on the table. I don’t think it’s right.”
Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa said she did not know why the mayor would veto decisions made by a supermajority of commissioners — including herself.
“Maybe he has to make a point,” she said. “We voted consciously on what we were doing.”
Commissioners have said they preferred Safe Wrap because they could not trust the rosy projections from TrueStar, a corporate venture between the airport’s current vendor, Sinapsis Trading USA, and its giant Italian parent, TrueStar Group SpA.
Last year, Sinapsis asked the county to reduce the company’s minimum annual payment to the airport to $8.7 million, from $11.1 million, saying it could not follow through on its commitment because a competitor began wrapping bags at locations outside the airport. That competitor was Secure Wrap of Miami, the former airport vendor that joined forces with Safe Bag USA, a subsidiary of the Italian firm Safe Bag Italia SRL, to form the Safe Wrap corporate venture.
The commission agreed to reduce Sinapsis’ payment but also cut its contract to one more year and put out a new bid for the concession.
In his veto messages, the mayor defended the process his administration followed to recommend TrueStar, noting that a hearing examiner upheld his decision after Safe Wrap protested. Gimenez also cited a slew of figures, contending that hiring Safe Wrap could cost MIA $6 million in baggage-wrap payments in the first three years of the 10-year contract.