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Council Awards Kiosk Contract to Top Bidder
By Jorge Casuso
December 14, 2022 -- Hoping to end an acrimonious bidding war, the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday awarded a lucrative wayfinding contract to BIG Outdoor while rejecting a proposal to start the process over.
The move, however, may not end runner-up IKE's challenge, which could be headed for court or the ballot box ("Bidder Claims Company Misled City to Win Lucrative 'Wayfinding' Contract," December 12, 2022).
The 20-year contract will pump an estimated $14 million a year into the City's coffers if BIG Outdoor installs the maximum 50 kiosks on commercial sidewalks, along with a $4 million signing bonus.
The Council's 5 to 2 vote culminated a week of intense lobbying by both companies and legal threats against the City by IKE.
"If the only reason for changing staff's recommendation is we like IKE more, we need to articulate (why)," said Mayor Gleam Davis. "It's like a replay in football. Is there enough to overturn the call on the field?"
Councilmember Oscar de la Torre agreed. "The right thing to do is to move forward with BIG Outdoor," he said. "The RFP is the RFP.
"It wasn't a small difference, it was a pretty big difference," de la Torre said, referring to the estimated revenues generated by BIG's proposal.
"Financial resources can never be our first thought," Brock said. Instead, it should be to provide "a great product that benefits our residents" and doesn't make them "feel they've been inundated with advertising.
"I'm more convinced the residents of the city will benefit more with IKE."
Brock floated a motion to start the RFP process again and include some of the financial benefits offered by BIG Outdoors as a baseline, a proposal that was not voted on after several Councilmembers opposed it.
"If we go back and redo this process over gain," Davis said, "we'll be sending a message to staff that all their hard work was for naught. If you don't like the result attack the process."
De la Torre said such a move would "politicize the whole process, and that would be unhealthy."
Tuesday's vote may not put an end to what is likely the most bitter challenge to a staff recommendation in recent memory.
IKE filed an intellectual property infringement suit against BIG in Federal Court last Friday. It also is exploring placing a measure on the ballot to overturn the Council's vote that would require gathering some 6,900 voter signatures in one month.
IKE also contends that "multiple legal violations" in the City's evaluation process would void any contract with BIG.
City Attorney Doug Sloan said his staff attorneys carefully reviewed IKE's claims and found "the many accusations and complaints about the process lack factual support and do not accurately reflect the law and the RFP itself.
"Some of the accusations may even amount to defamation," Slaon said.
In his presentation to the Council, IKE's attorney Victor de la Cruz reiterated the claims.
BIG Outdoor, he said, is a company "that tries to deceive you at every turn" and staff was "hell bent on picking this company."
The comments didn't sit well with some of the Councilmembers.
"I think IKE's attack on staff was unconscionable," Davis said, "to suggest that they came to this with some prejudice.
"To attack staff is really unfair. Our staff worked really hard on this."
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