The Town of Medley council delivered its own version of “after further review” this past Monday night, Oct. 7 at its monthly meeting.
One month after voting to give La Mia Restaurant and owner Alex Salvant the green light to take over the servicing for Medley’s Hot Meals Program, the council, at the urging of new town attorney Stephen Helfman, was forced to sheepishly backtrack on its Sept. 3 unanimous vote. That vote jettisoned the deal with Latin American Grill and awarded the contract to La Mia, after giving Latin American Grill a 60-day termination notice.
“I regret to inform you that when you asked me last month about the situation, I had only been your attorney for three of four days,” said Helfman. “I apologize to you as I was not familiar with certain ordinances that you had in place at the time and after reviewing them later on realized that the vote you took last month was not proper.”
Helfman went on to explain to the council a provision in an ordinance that did not allow them to take any kind of a vote on the issue until an RFP (Request for Proposal) had gone out and that all businesses had an opportunity to bid.
Furthermore, the RFP could not be set in motion until a few months before Latin American’s contract was due to expire, which is not until May 31 of next year.
“There is a provision in the code that would allow you to waive this process but there would have to be just cause for that and I don’t see why the bidding process should be waived,” said Helfman. “If you don’t wish to go any further with this, you don’t have to and the contract with Latin America will stay in place. But if you do wish to move forward, it will have to be put out for proposal through an RFP process.”
Eventually, the council voted to put it through the RFP process next year, but not before over 45 minutes of debate took place, with some of it getting personal and heated. At one point there was a personal exchange between Jack Morrow and Edgar Ayala, while Salvant and Latin America representatives Jorge and Reny Gonzalez approached the podium to get their licks in as well.
More than once, Mayor Roberto Martell was forced to go to the gavel to keep things in order.
Ayala and Susanna Guasch argued vehemently in favor of La Mia, while Morrow and Vice Mayor Griselia Digiacomo took the other side.
Council members proceeded to argue over a survey that had been taken during the month of September in which only 25 of the 191 Lakeside seniors who chose to respond (out of a possible 377) voiced an objection to the current service.
“I read this entire package and don’t believe this survey is accurate,” said Ayala. “I read the first 20 surveys and all of them had an objection.”
“I called Fathima Fuentes (director of the Hot Meals Program) and she informed me that only 25 of the 191 had objected,” said Morrow, who fought against making the switch at the Sept. 3 meeting before ultimately voting yes. “I just received this survey and have not had ample time to really review it properly.”
When Ayala indicated that Morrow should have had ample time, Morrow fired back.
“Don’t insult me, Edgar, I’m not stupid,” said Morrow. “I was not given this until just before this meeting.”
“First of all, I want to apologize for our vote last month,” said Digiacomo. “I want to tell you, Edgar, that you only looked at the first 20 surveys and they were all bunched together up front. But if you keep going down, then you get to the positive ones. We have nothing against you, Alex (Salvant), it’s just that we need to make sure at this point that the process is done properly.”
“We need to respect what we did and to erase what we did before seems ridiculous,” said Ayala.
“I agree with Edgar that we took a vote last time,” said Guasch. “And I want to reiterate that this has nothing to do with the fact that La Mia and Alex are local (La Mia is just two blocks from Medley Town Hall) and that if anyone else outside of Medley were to come forward they would be considered as well.”
Guasch, along with Salvant, then went on to voice their objections over the delay with Guasch, pointing out that she knew of three Medley restaurants “who might not be around come next year.”
Finally, Digiacomo made the motion and Morrow made a second to allow Latin American Grill to live out the life of its contract but at the same time begin the RFP process at the beginning of next year, with March being a target date to have the process completed. Predictably, Guasch and Ayala voted no, leaving the 2-2 tie to be broken by Martell, who voted yes.