Accounts payable

Business partners who received a $49,140 municipal contract contributed to the campaigns of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.

Business partners who received a contract from the now-fired city of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. over transparency contributed to Scott’s campaign in 2018 and continued to provide financial support when running for re-election.

Additionally, on Friday, a city spokesperson acknowledged that the only tangible work product in the city’s possession associated with the $49,140 contract is a slideshow presentation project that was never presented to city council. .

In Little Rock, contracts under $50,000 can get the City Manager’s signature for approval and do not require formal City Council review, as long as the purchase has been put out to tender. .

Contract-related matters are now at the center of a dispute between Scott and Ward 4 City Manager Capi Peck that exploded into public view this week.

Peck accused Scott of asking the city’s director of planning and development, Jamie Collins, to withhold a document related to the bid that had been requested by one of Peck’s voters, Kent Myers.

According to Peck, Collins told him late last month that Myers’ request seemed “fishy,” that it might be related to the Nov. 8 election, and that Scott didn’t want him to provide it to Myers.

Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore at a city council meeting on Tuesday confirmed that Peck relayed the exchange to him in an Oct. 28 phone conversation.

Scott denied asking Collins to withhold anything. The mayor argued that Myers is not only a supporter of Scott’s main opponent in the race, Steve Landers Sr., but also serves as a consultant for the retired car dealership.

Likewise, Collins denied the claim. “I have not been ordered by the mayor or any representative to withhold any information,” the planning director wrote in a recent email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Peck, a restaurateur who has represented Ward 4 since 2017, is not eligible for re-election until 2024.

According to city records, the city issued Request for Qualifications #840 in July 2020, seeking development consulting services.

“The City of Little Rock is seeking a plan with recommendations to strengthen our neighborhoods and increase opportunities for our residents, day laborers and employers as well as visitors,” the document states. “To this end, the city is requesting three comprehensive development plans for the following areas: 1) the large downtown commercial, government and entertainment area; 2) the I-630 corridor; 3) the historic portion of the South- west of Little Rock.”

Email records show that on July 1, 2020, Collins wrote to Scott proposing the composition of a selection committee related to the opening of bids.

In addition to himself, Collins suggested the committee be made up of Scott’s chief of staff Charles Blake, intergovernmental relations officer Emily Cox, then-director of parks and recreation John Eckart, and from Scott’s senior advisor, Kendra Pruitt.

Scott approved the list the same day.

Records show the city received five responses. They were sent by the following companies listed as the primary point of contact: Urban Design Associates, Tunnell-Spangler & Associates, Design Workshop, Pfeffer Torode Architecture and A Squared.

A Squared’s bid response, dated July 29, 2020, proposed that the company partner with Cromwell; Jones Lang LaSalle; Oline; VCC Construction; and Con-Real.

In its response to an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request, the city provided a video in which Little Rock procurement officer Derrick Rainey reads the responses received under Request for Qualification #840.

A Squared is not one of the five entities that Rainey names in the video as having submitted responses.

Nevertheless, A Squared eventually received the contract. A scoring document provided by the city shows the company received a score of 192 – the highest score among five bidders – followed by Urban Design Associates with 188.

Public records show that A Squared Global, LLC, registered in Texas on July 29, 2020, with Alley as its registered agent, but as of June 24, 2022 the entity is no longer active in the state.

The Texas Comptroller of the Public Accounts website indicates that A Squared Global’s registration or certificate was involuntarily terminated as a result of tax forfeiture or administrative forfeiture.

Blue Hog Report’s Matthew Campbell, who recently went to court to obtain records from Scott’s administration, first reported on Wednesday a timeline of events related to the A Squared contract, including campaign contributions.

The two business partners behind A Squared were Gerald Alley and Sam Alley. They are not related to each other.

Gerald Alley is president and CEO of Texas-based Con-Real. Sam Alley stepped down as managing director of VCC Construction last year, but remains its chairman.

Both men contributed to Scott as a candidate for mayor.

In October 2018, Gerald Alley contributed $1,000 to Scott’s first campaign. Sam Alley contributed $500 the same month. Haitham Alley, brother of Sam Alley, also contributed $500 that month.

In the current election cycle, Gerald Alley paid Scott $2,000 in August; his wife, Candace, contributed $1,000 in February.

Sam Alley’s son, Derek, contributed $1,000 to Scott’s re-election campaign in February and Sam Alley himself contributed $1,000 in late March.

Another person who was among A Squared’s proposed aides in the company’s bid response was Chris East, who contributed $1,000 to Scott’s re-election campaign in August.

Asked if these contributions gave A Squared an edge over the nomination opportunity, Scott’s spokesperson Aaron Sadler wrote in an email Friday: “The committee that selected this proposal over two years ago did so regardless of whether someone had donated to a campaign, and the mayor is not involved in the city’s procurement process.”

Responding to the question of whether officials were seeking to circumvent City Council review with a contract amount of less than $50,000, Sadler wrote, “The contract price was provided by the contractor, not the city. , and it represents the cost for the scope of work of the project.”

The Democrat-Gazette obtained a copy of the same slide deck that Collins eventually provided to Myers on Oct. 30 — two days after, when Peck says Collins told him about the mayor’s alleged directive.

A Squared’s presentation is stamped “draft” and dated February 22, 2022. It is made up of a total of 23 slides, many of which contain a map of one type or another.

A summary of key findings for the three areas of Little Rock calls for more multi-family housing in the downtown area as well as additional multi-family units near War Memorial Park amid high demand there.

The slideshow notes a small supply of multi-family housing in southwest Little Rock, although it indicates that some parcels are available for development. He also cites the growing commercial and industrial sectors in southwest Little Rock.

The presentation recommends that the city issue a call for tenders for the development of workforce housing in the medical district.

When Collins provided him with a link to the slideshow on the morning of October 30, Myers said he was looking for a different plan or report.

In a response to Myers, Collins explained that the city had “decided on a phased approach for planned areas.”

“The first phase was simply to look at all three areas and provide market analysis to help determine supply and demand to align with the highest and best utilization of properties,” Collins wrote. . “A presentation to the board was to be made at the end of the first phase. The project was put on hold before this presentation. No final presentation is available at this time.”

At a city board meeting on Tuesday, when questioned by City Manager Kathy Webb of Ward 3 on War Memorial Park, Scott said he couldn’t remember everything involved in the study. .

Scott recalled that consultants prepared plans that looked at downtown, the I-630 corridor and southwest Little Rock as part of the ‘Rebuild the Rock’ tax proposal, which failed at the polls in September. 2021.

He said he didn’t remember seeing the market analysis.

A pay slip from the city’s supplier shows A Squared received $49,140 on May 6, 2022.

“All invoices must be approved by the department and submitted to Accounts Payable for processing and payment. My understanding [is that] this happened in April and the bill was paid in May,” city spokesperson Spencer Watson wrote in an email Friday.

“Presentation is just that, a presentation,” Watson added. “It is intended to be a digest of all the data collected, synthesized and analyzed by the contractor in the execution of the contract to present a succinct conclusion with actionable recommendations. It is the only work product in the possession of the town.”