Infinity Surety was the bond company for the HSOA construction contract at Louis Armstrong Int. Turned out the bonds were bogus and the whole contract went to hell....after the city had paid out HSOA.
So is this lawsuit in connection with the airport? If it is why is Benetech filing it and not HSOA? If it's not in relation to the airport, its one more interesting link between Frank Fradella, Aaron Bennett, and....what? Texas....yeah....Texas....let's just say that. Can the state of Texas sue me?
I know Bennett is now an owner of Picke Construction...but it's interesting that both HSOA and Benetech would be using the same Bond company out of Texas.
And also, just to back assertions that Benetech did, in fact, receive a no-bid contract from the city....I went back and re-read this story. Now it may have been legal...but just read this story again, knowing everything we know now. I had actually forgotten that Veracent was a Benetech sub. Read these two columns in particular:
Nagin spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett said the city could not answer questions about Veracent -- including how much the city owes the firm -- because the city does not contract directly with the firm. "Veracent is (a) subcontractor to Benetech," she wrote via e-mail. "Benetech can answer details about Veracent."
Quiett added that it is up to Benetech to "manage and vet all applicants and then make recommendations" about which ones to use.
In fact, Veracent held the rooftop lease before the city ever hired Benetech. When the lease was signed, Imagine -- and later Veracent -- were subcontractors to another firm, Ciber Inc. Ciber was the third company to oversee Imagine at City Hall.
Thanks to an executive order signed by Nagin in 2004, when it comes to technology services, the city does not have to follow its own procurement rules and seek competitive proposals as long as it does business with a company that has prenegotiated rates with the federal General Services Administration. Ciber and Benetech both bill under a so-called "GSA schedule."
Around February of this year, Ciber, which also was owed a substantial amount of money by the city, decided to drop that contract. Benetech, a local firm that also uses a GSA schedule, volunteered to take over as prime contractor.
Benetech's owner, Aaron Bennett, said that when he took on the job, he had been told the city's chief technology officer at the time, Mark Kurt -- who had been a partner in Imagine before taking the city job -- that a change was in the works.
Tired of questions about favoritism, Kurt wanted to end the practice of using subcontractors to do the technology work at City Hall. Bennett said his plan was to decide which Imagine and Veracent employees to keep, and to make them Benetech employees.
Shortly after issuing that directive, Kurt left the city and went to work for Ciber.
Hispanic firm chosen
Kurt's position was filled on an interim basis by Anthony Jones, who issued a request for proposals in April in hopes of contracting directly with a company that would provide technology services. (More recently, the city has advertised for the position of chief technology officer as well.)
The city received 10 proposals for technology services, and spent months looking them over. In the meantime, Benetech has continued to bill on behalf of Imagine and Veracent.
Quiett confirmed last week that city officials have decided to award the new technology contract to Vision IT of Detroit. City Hall has not yet provided score sheets or other materials requested by The Times-Picayune showing how the proposals were ranked.
According to the company's Web site, Vision IT is one of the nation's fastest-growing Hispanic-owned firms. Locally, the company hosted a "Tech Day with the Saints" in July at the Saints' facility on Airline Drive.
Quiett said the company has not begun working for the city yet. "A draft contract is being negotiated," she said.
That said, most of the city's current technology vendors apparently have been shown the door. Bennett, of Benetech, said he got a letter from the city in early September saying his services, and those of his subcontractors, no longer were needed.
Bennett alerted St. Pierre, who was displeased with the abrupt notice. The next day, St. Pierre sent his e-mail demanding payment from the city.