The City of San Antonio is under attack. Troy Elliot from Finance Department, Rene Dominguez from Economic Development and in this case, Chief Charles Hood, are all puppets to the City Manager. They find the loopholes to not to do business with Black and Hispanic business. Last week’s City Hall A session on Thursday was revealing to how Black and Hispanic communities do not have a friend in the City Manager or her men. The battle surrounded a $1.7 million dollar defibrillator contract for the SA Fire Department, with to use Zoll products on their trucks. This routine ordinance approval was met by large minority business community opposition. Councilman Joe Krier, District 9, stated to the Fire Chief and the Finance Department, “Your failure to plan ahead is not my reason to have an emergency”. It was revealed quickly within the hour discussion, city departments under City Manager Sheryl Sculley, are running beneath the radar in how they spend tax payer dollars.
So what is a defibrillator? In simple terms a defibrillator is a life saving tool that Emergency Medical Responders use on ill patients to shock the heart and allow it to beat providing oxygen to the brain. It helps sustain life until the person can be under a medical doctor’s care.
Medics were needed for the City when former District 2 Councilman and candidate Keith Toney showed up to support the Med Wheels company. His voice set the tone for his former peers to know this was a serious issue. Also sitting in the audience was TC Calvert, who rallied the audience to know that the local small minority business was being done wrong. He asked the City Council if they had the will power to do right by the people.
Surprisingly, Councilman Alan Warrick, did not let the savvy Toney steal the advocacy thunder. For once the Councilman did his job and dug in hard to fight for his constituent versus approving the Zoll contract. It was his recommendation to the Council to send this ordinance to the High Profiles Audit Committee for review. We could only imagine he finally listened to the right people or the fact one of his opposition showed up to fight for the people caused him to wake up. Why couldn't Alan be courageous and fight the real issues of the people over the last 2-years? Certainly, going into the job, the City Manager's performance was neglected by Warrick.
As background, In July 2016, the City of San Antonio affirmed new policy within the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy Program (SBEDA) to encourage any manufacturer with distribution channels in San Antonio, to enable the local business community to be included for subcontract. Subcontracts build the capacity of local firms and build good paying jobs locally. This makes sense and reflects true economic growth in our city. The City’s Economic Development Department took years to formulate new tools to benefit the mostly minority business community.
What good is a plan if you don’t follow it? The main person responsible for the plan’s success or failure is the City Manager – Sheryl Sculley. The City of San Antonio offered a five year contract in 2012 for a company to provide the defibrillator, training and accessory items. Zoll won the contract, but refused the City’s long term agreement and opted for a two year agreement. Once the initial equipment was put into place on Fire trucks over the first two years, the city then became a slave to Zoll to continue to buy, replace and add-on new features. The Zoll company offers some of their brand to distributors like locally owned Med Wheels, CEO Jane Gonzalez, but prevents their local distributors from being able to market or sell their high end models to city and state governments.
Med Wheels CEO asked the city to break down the emergency buy packages of the fire department to allow her company to sell the city parts and commodities that support the technology. Zoll wanted no parts of sharing in any of the sale that the city staff ultimately championed. It’s all or nothing for them. However top competitor, Physio-Control states to the Observer, if given the chance they would be willing to abide by the city ordinance and offer increased opportunity for local minority distributers to grow contracts.
The City of San Antonio departments have acted and prefer to give millions of dollars to Zoll and continue to enable Zoll to “bully the city” and “dictate to the city”, terms used by Councilman Warrick. The San Antonio Growth for the East Side (SAGE), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Fair Contractors Coalition (FCC) and former members of the Small Business Advocacy (SBAC) protested and stood unified with Med Wheels. As the Council members heard their voices, it seemed like it gave them the power to collectively used strong language while the city departments stood shoulder to shoulder with Zoll.
Now let’s put on the brakes. You would think the African American Fire Chief would love to support minority business. Not really...the Fire Chief reported clearly he simply loves the Zoll product. He refuses to consider any other company to support his department and stated that because the city has invested so heavily in the Zoll product line, he will not change – even if the Zoll manufacturer does not abide by new city ordinance changes to support San Antonio minority companies. How does he avoid this problem? The Chief builds emergency supply orders that the City Manager approves under a waiver or exception to bypass city policy. The Finance Department has the marching orders and they create sole source contracts directly to businesses they choose as opposed to competing the contract openly. The Fire Chief worries about not having enough equipment and supplies – and vocalized it time and time again at the City Council meeting. He always gets his way. Finally, the City Council light bulbs went on. They collectively understood they were not seeing millions of dollars of city procurement because of situations like the Fire Chief. Sculley is hiding much more!
Well City Manager Sculley prides herself on San Antonio’s fiscal efficiency and the Triple-A bond rating. However she achieves that by not enforcing the policy of San Antonio….I guess she thinks the black and Brown populations do not read. At the meeting she sat with her head down for the majority of this important discussion, trying to orchestrate other supporting departments to change the conversation and provide alt facts on some matters.
The Finance Department under question described they have circumvented policy and procedures to buy goods and services at their discretion versus following the law of the land. Here is a FACT: Under City Manager Sculley, her departments are not participating with the City Council in regards to executing the SBEDA ordinance changes passed and that went into effect July 1, 2016.
Christopher Herring testified to support Med Wheels. He serves on the Small Business Advocacy, and Chairs the City’s Five Year Contracting Diversity Plan. He replied to our question saying “it appears the City does have legal loopholes available to avoid using small minority business. The people have the power to change this situation. I expect we will examine this case very closely.”
Herring asked at the podium “why did we survey the business community and yet we see no heart by our city to grow the women and minority business community?” Before the City Council meeting, Herring notified the Mayor and Council members of his disappointment of the fact African American businesses received $0 in Goods in Supplies in 2016. “Who is monitoring equity? Isn’t that the job of the City Manager? This should not be a surprise to anyone on staff, they approve the contracts to who we do business with.” The City spent over $400 million dollars in 2016.
In the heart of the Mayor’s race, a dark cloud now looms over Sheryl Sculley, who appears to refuse to be transparent in how she conducts the business of the city. Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Manuel Medina appears to be the only Mayor candidate who would replace the City Manager. His campaign rhetoric identifies Sculley as being bought by high paying special interest groups.
After reviewing the Zoll case, The Observer Newspaper strongly recommends Zoll should be disqualified from this contract as there appeared preferential treatment given to this manufacturer before the Council had even voted. The City Manager wanted a rubber stamp without the Council verifyingher work. Equally it was very disturbing to see the Zoll Vice President surrounded by the City Departments defending the Alamo. What was very concerning Councilman Mike Gallagher, and Mayor Candidate Councilman Ron Nirenberg did not even speaking on this important topic to the majority Black and Hispanic business community. We expect that they didn’t want to disturb his nonminority political base.
The Observer supports Med Wheels CEO Jane Gonzalez. She communicated to the city leadership she felt threatened, by being the David in truly a David versus Goliath situation. She said that God is on her side. The Zoll case is now being reviewed at the High Profile Audit Committee.
See the explosive meeting on video by clicking HERE.