Miami-Dade commissioners upheld their decision to award a lucrative Miami International Airport baggage-wrap contract Tuesday, overriding a pair of vetoes by Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
The 11-1 vote marked the first time in Gimenez’s young administration that the board, flexing its collective political muscle, dismissed his executive action.
The coveted concession will go to Safe Wrap, the second-place bidder that last month matched the $9.6 million minimum annual payment offered by the first-place bidder, TrueStar. Commissioners selected Safe Wrap, which initially offered $9.1 million, saying they could not trust TrueStar’s rosy revenue projections from encasing luggage in clingy plastic to prevent theft.
TrueStar is a new corporate venture involving the airport’s current vendor, Sinapsis Trading USA, which last year asked for a reduction to $8.7 million from its $11.1 million payment to the county. The board reluctantly approved the request, but only with the condition that the contract be re-bid.
The concessionaire must pay the county the minimum annual fee or a percentage of monthly gross revenues, whichever is higher. Safe Wrap did not match TrueStar’s offer to provide 65 percent of the revenues, sticking to its 52 percent offer.
To justify his vetoes, Gimenez said that lower percentage could cost MIA some $6 million a year — a number Safe Wrap disputed. Gimenez vetoed two commission decisions: to reject awarding the contract to TrueStar, as his administration recommended, and to hire Safe Wrap instead. He said he hoped the board would consider requiring Safe Wrap to match TrueStar’s 65 percent offer.
But they did not, choosing Tuesday to uphold their decision to hire Safe Wrap, a joint venture that includes Secure Wrap, the company that brought the baggage-wrapping business to the airport and held the concession for nine years. Congratulatory back-slapping and hand-shaking ensued outside the County Hall commission chambers after the vote on the heavily lobbied contract.
“This is our home,” Secure Wrap President Radamés Villalón said. “We are ambassadors of Miami through this business.”
Gimenez issued the vetoes — only the second ones of his administration — despite knowing that a veto-proof majority of the commission had awarded the contract to Safe Wrap. But he Tuesday said he “had to make a statement.”
“I don’t think it was the right thing to do,” he said of the commission’s overrides. “Unfortunately, we’re going to leave $6 million on the table.”
Commissioners took care of business quickly, with less than 20 minutes of discussion.
Voting to override the vetoes were Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell, and Commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan, Sally Heyman, Jean Monestime, Dennis Moss, Javier Souto and Juan C. Zapata. Commissioner Xavier Suarez cast the lone dissenting vote. Commissioner Bruno Barreiro was absent from the meeting.
“The previous decision stands,” Sosa said after the vote.
Then, without naming TrueStar, she chided a public-relations campaign the firm waged to try to persuade commissioners to support Gimenez. The company commissioned an automatic telephone call known as a robo-poll and sent voters a campaign-style mailer with Gimenez’s photo urging recipients to call their commissioner to back the vetoes.