Miami-Dade Commissioners Approve, But Question Process for Contract Award to Motorola
Tuesday, July 26, 2022 | Comments

Several members of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in Florida questioned the process leading to the award of a contract to Motorola Solutions.

During its July 19 meeting, the board voted to approve a resolution awarding a $167 million contract to Motorola Solutions. The project has four parts: the purchase of new Motorola radios for police officers and firefighters, additional fire sites for the county’s system, an air-to-ground microwave system and maintenance, said Greg Rubin, assistant fire chief for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. Of the total amount $67 million would go to the new radios.

While the full board voted in favor of the resolution, several members expressed concern about the process in which the city decided to purchase Motorola radios.

Commissioner Oliver Gilbert III noted that in selecting the radios, the fire and police departments had not followed a traditional procurement practice by releasing a request for proposals (RFP).

Rubin said that while an RFP was not released, the county’s fire and police departments did extensive market research over two years and determined that only Motorola’s radios met the county’s needs.

“Looking at the marketplace with the radios available, only the Motorola radios offered the advanced features the county was looking for,” Rubin said. “It’s a designated purchase because no other vendor is able to provide the services that we wanted.”

Gilbert acknowledged that the Motorola radios may fit the county’s needs best but argued that the county should have still followed its procurement process.

“I don’t doubt this is the best radio, but we allow for processes to prove that out,” Gilbert said. “I hope all of that stuff works because you just bet everything on it because you didn’t follow the process. If it doesn’t work, it not on us, it’s on you. Other times, we could trust the process to do that. You have to be right on this, because it’s a big ticket process that you didn’t put through the process.”

Several members of the board expressed concern that the Motorola radios would be used on the county’s radio system, which uses L3Harris infrastructure and wondered if that would cause issues with how the radios work.

One of those was Commissioner Jose Martinez, who spent many years with the Miami-Dade Police Department prior to his time as a commissioner. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that radios work. Otherwise, he said it could put the public and first responders in danger.

“I guess no one else has ever been on the other end of a radio when it didn’t work,” he said. “I have.”

Martinez expressed disappointment that there had been no discussion over the resolution when it was approved by a committee prior to it being moved to the full council. Martinez noted that back when he was a police officer, the chief and mayor had pushed through a change in radios that had caused many radios not to work for several months. He said he wanted to make sure a similar situation would not occur again.

“I could care less if it’s Harris, Motorola, Ericsson or whoever, if there is someone on the other side when an officer clicks the button,” he said. “That’s all I care about. So I was really disappointed to see no discussion but I can understand why. All I care about is do these radios work as promised?” In response, Rubin said that the radios had been tested extensively since the beginning of the year and that the fire department had been using Motorola radios on the L3Harris infrastructure for nearly 10 years.

“We have a great partnership with Harris,” said Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez. “But we feel this product with Motorola is a next-generation type of device that the first responders in Miami-Dade County deserve and humbly request that it’s approved.”

Some of the features highlighted by Ramirez and Rubin were personnel tracking over LTE, a large touchscreen to allow responders to send messages back and forth, the ability to transmit text and video, and voice control.

Commissioner Sally Heyman noted some of the other commissioners concerns but also noted the faith that the fire and police personnel had in the equipment.

“When you have the people who have to use it 100% behind it, that’s 100% what you want,” she said.

Like Gilbert, Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins questioned Rubin about the process leading to the selection. Rubin reiterated that the police and fire department felt that the Motorola products were the only ones that fit their needs.

“There’s no other product in the marketplace,” he said. “Going through the RFP would have resulted in the same result anyway.”

Cohen Higgins expressed concern that such exceptions could lead to setting a precedent and noted the large number of items skipping the procurement process recently across the county government’s departments.

Following the rest of the commission’s comments, Board Chair Jose Pepe Diaz, who cosponsored the resolution argued that making sure public-safety personnel had the tools they needed was the most important thing, even over the process.

“I’ve sat here for a long time,” he said. “And I’ve heard a lot of things. First and foremost, we’re complaining because out procurement takes two years. I understand when we’re trying to rush something, because it means saving lives, and that’s what I said from the beginning. And that’s why I put my name on this. Because at the end of the day, if the men and women that are going to use these things are the ones testing them, they understand what they need. Whether it went through one procurement method or another, I get it. We would always like to do a full procurement situation. But, when it means something about life safety, I am sorry, I am going to try my best to rush it as much as I can, and I’m not going to be apologetic about it.”

Gilbert acknowledged that the procurement process could take some time but noted that the fire department had spent nearly two years doing its own market research.

“You could have initiated a process in those two years,” he said. “This is not a sole source, which tells me that this probably actually isn’t the only technology, because then it would be a sole source. So that means in theory, somebody could actually compete if you had a process. … This is far from best practices. We’ve just gone astray.”

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