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BID G-RIGGING? REDI chair lands six-figure school contract just before group endorses tax levy

Pushing higher taxes and bond debt, Griggs floors Columbians with $117,442 contract for 9 public schools

COLUMBIA, 3/5/12  (Beat Byte) --
 Eyebrows spiked
when Columbia's taxpayer-funded business lobby -- REDI -- endorsed Columbia Public Schools' (CPS) April tax levy and bond debt increases, while pushing huge business tax breaks through a so-called "Enhanced Enterprise Zone," or EEZ.

Now, news that REDI chairman Dave Griggs won a hefty contract from CPS just four months earlier has tempers flaring.   The bid results were public until late last month, when school district purchasing officials pulled them from an archival website.  
 
REDI endorsed the levy increase -- one of the largest in recent history -- and $50 million in new bond debt on January 12.   In August, Dave Griggs Flooring America won a $117,441.67 school district contract to replace flooring at Jefferson Junior; Gentry Middle;  Douglass High; Rock Bridge Elementary; West Junior; Smithton Middle;  Lee Elementary; Lange Middle; and Grant Elementary. 
 
Minutes from a September 12 School Board meeting list Griggs as the only firm winning a contract without the term "Award to low bidder meeting specifications."   Thirteen other contracts listed for award contain the "low bidder" phrase. 
 
"After a presentation from school board member Jonathan Sessions, REDI’s board voted unanimously to support a 40-cent tax levy increase and a $50 million bond issue that would likely equate to another 12-cent property tax hike," the Columbia Tribune reported four months later.   "REDI, made up of area business and government leaders, works to recruit new businesses and expand existing businesses, often crafting packages that include property tax breaks for the companies."
 
By 2020, if voters pass everything, CPS will have taken on nearly half-billion dollars in new bond debt just since the year 2000.   Most of the debt is earmarked for construction contracts like the one Griggs received. 
 
When word hit that Griggs' firm had won a $350,000 contract to install floors at the new IBM office after REDI lobbied for a costly Big Blue taxpayer deal, the flooring mogul joined a chorus of other conflicted REDI members declaring it wasn't a problem. 
 
Griggs' tag-team approach on the EEZ/Blight Decree with Sessions isn't playing well, either.  The School Board member's name turns up almost daily as one of the EEZ's loudest proponents, with battles breaking out on Twitter and Facebook as he deletes questions about his efforts and bans access to his social media pages (as he did with this publication). 
 
After the Columbia Public Schools purchasing office pulled down the bid award to his firm, we secured the document via a Google cache of the vanished original.   "Our purchasing department just last week cleaned up their bid tabs, and deleted all that they considered old," Tracy Davenport, CPS assistant to chief financial officer Nick Boren, told this writer, referring me on to another purchasing agent.    


Griggs CPS flooring bid award
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