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Reformed City Commission Cans the Old Guard February 12, 2014 By David Arthur Walters MIAMI MIRROR Miami Beach—The City Commission of Miami Beach led by Mayor Philip Levine resolved to waive the bidding process for the procurement of the city’s tennis management contract and to award it to Howie Orlin’s management team Wednesday, thus relieving the city of a dozen years of mismanagement and breaches of contract by Jim Bollettieri’s insolvent company, Green Square Inc. The previous commission led by Mayor Matti Bower had refused to award a new contract to the Orlin team last October even though it was the evaluation committee’s number one pick over the fourth and last choice, Green Square. The Bower commission tossed out the bids and continued Green Square’s month-tomonth contract at the world famous, newly renovated Flamingo Park tennis center and its North Shore facility, planning to award the new contract to Green Square after the election.

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MIAMI MIRROR – TRUE REFLECTIONS But the best laid plan of the incumbent politicians and tennis contractor has been foiled by fresh blood on the commission and the businesslike approach of newly elected Mayor Levine. Green Square was frightened by the prospect of losing the contract into hiring maintenance men. The city’s maintenance crew has previously been forced do Green Square’s job at the new state-of-the-art clay courts at Flamingo Park in order to save the courts from absolute disaster. Green Square’s last ditch effort to save its existence was too little too late for the reformist commission. Besides, it was feared that Green Square would backslide into its old ways once it got what it wanted. The fact that other bidders were offering far more money in rent to the city and were projecting far greater revenue raised the question of whether shortfalls were simply due to bad marketing techniques on Green Square’s part or whether public tennis dues had been pocketed. The teaching integrity of Jimmy Bollettieri and his pros was never at question. His vociferous supporters, decked out again in T-shirts for the occasion, flocked to the commission meeting as they had done before in hopes the mismanagement travesty would be continued to save the adored teachers. Again the clapping in favor of Bollettieri was deafening. Again the opposition speakers were booed in yet another demonstration of unsportsmanlike behavior. Again Bollettieri himself behaved like a gentleman, in a fatalistic fashion. The Green Square name was not mentioned nor was the name of its general manager, brother-in-law to the remnant old-guard commissioner, Deede Weithorn, CPA, who had recused herself. Again the lanky basketball star, former Miami Heat player Rony Seikaly, showed up to testify with others. Tennis should be about the kids, about the programs, not about money, was the gist as usual. Again wealthy energy trader Mark Fisher testified, and said that he would be delighted to put up a quarter-million dollars if the city was worried about money.
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MIAMI MIRROR – TRUE REFLECTIONS Everyone had heard it all before. Mayor Levine cut the reiterations short, allowing three representatives and three members of the general public from each side to speak for two minutes each or maybe a little more. The Orlin supporters claimed that the decision should not be based on who could draw the biggest and loudest crowd but on who was the best manager, so the commission had better make the hard decision, that is, the right decision. Orlin said he would be glad to append a promise on the contract that he would keep any of the incumbent pros on the job if they wanted to work with his team. If a big name were required, he could get one of those too. A lawyer favoring Green Square said the hearing should not be about which candidate for the job is best but about the process. The previous commission has tossed the bids, and the current commission had called this hearing to discuss what to do in the future, not to actually do anything, so if any definitive action were taken it would violate the public’s right to be heard, et cetera. The city attorneys shot that argument down forthwith: The public was given notice, the public was present to be heard, and the commission could do whatever it damn well pleased, including waiving the bidding process without the city manager’s request for such a waiver. The city attorneys were probably right. When considering the meaning of the written law we must take a look at the lawyers and their resources to assess what the law would most likely mean in court. City Manager Jimmy Morales, who had previously recommended the selection of the Orlin team, was asked if he would stand by that recommendation. He waffled between the tossed out process and the new consideration. He gave an emphatic “no” when asked if he would waive the bidding process. “Uh, I think Kathy Brooks wants to handle this one (laughter from audience). I inherited this RFP. Is it too late to reconsider?” “It is not appropriate for me to say restate new bidding. Our recommendation would have been to have another competitive bid process. I don't think there are
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MIAMI MIRROR – TRUE REFLECTIONS circumstances for me to say to waive this in either direction. My normal recommendation would be to go out to a normal procurement based on the direction you all give. To answer question for the commissioner, as for the old process, even though I inherited that old process, I stand by it. I look carefully at the presentations. There was a committee that had clear results. We believe it was a fair process and we stand by the recommendation we made at that point. But that is not in effect anymore and it is not up to me to bring that into effect.” Newly elected Commissioner Michael Grieco made the necessary motions towards what seemed to be the foregone conclusion to a process most likely devised by the city attorneys. First, he made a motion to rebid the contract. The prospective reprieve drew loud applause from Bollettieri fans. Not to worry, said Commissioner Jonah Wolfson when the motion failed with a tie score of 3:3 and the peanut gallery groaned, there are other ways to get things done. Relieved, the audience laughed, knowingly, but Wolfson denied any diabolical intent. He is rumored to have lost a screw or two somewhere, but he seems to have his wits about him, rather keen wits at that. His demeanor at times is indeed somewhat goofily devilish, but everyone has a bit of the goof and devil in him, so do not hastily judge him a fool. Second, a motion to waive the bidding process and award the contract to the Bollettieri team failed, the score being 0:6 Finally, a motion to waive the bidding and award the contract to Orlin passed with the necessary five votes, much to the dismay of the Bollettieri fans, with only Wolfson voting against it. From the Commissioners: “You have to have five. We have five. You have five? Good, then it’s over with, congratulations!” The outcry was outrageous, with one man yelling that he wanted his tennis membership dues back. Commissioners, adopting a paternalistic tone, did their best to quiet the temper tantrum.
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MIAMI MIRROR – TRUE REFLECTIONS I stepped outside the chambers. An ambulance chaser was there advising Bollettieri to litigate. I buttonholed Mark Fisher in good humor, asking him if he could spare a hundred grand to retain a lawyer to fight City Hall. He rudely brushed me off as if I had just asked him for ten dollars for the Negro Pizza Fund. There was some talk downstairs that Bollettieri would get the contract back in a year or two. In my opinion, he would be better off without it. As he had said at the previous commission meeting, “It has been a good run.” He looked weather-worn, as bitter as an old salt on the sea. My take on him is that tennis is not really his game. He might be better off surfing with the Aloha Spirit on the North Shore of Oahu, partaking of pakalolo for his medical ailments. And there is a tennis presence on the islands if he misses the game. ##

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