Fairfax County has terminated a contract for electronic waste collection, recycling, and disposal services after the local recycling company Securis filed a protest against the county for how it handled the competitive bid process.
After issuing a request for proposals on Mar. 20, the county initially awarded a contract to the North Carolina-based company Powerhouse Recycling over Securis in July on the grounds that its analysis found the out-of-state option offered a better financial deal.
Securis, however, had handled Fairfax County’s e-waste collection and disposal work since 2017 as a subcontractor for the nonprofit ServiceSource, which provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities and had contracted with the county since 2000.
As part of its agreement with ServiceSource, Securis hired the same team that the nonprofit used for its e-waste work with Fairfax County.
However, ServiceSource’s contract expired on June 30, and the county’s decision to give the next contract to Powerhouse Recycling instead of Securis meant that those individuals, all of whom have developmental disabilities, lost their jobs.
Fairfax County Chief Procurement Officer Cathy Muse announced in a July 29 letter to Securis’ legal counsel that she would terminate the county’s contract with Powerhouse Recycling, though the Chantilly-based company’s protest and request for relief were denied.
“Providing services and support for people with disabilities is a priority for Fairfax County, and we are very concerned about the impact this issue has had on these workers and their families,” Fairfax County director of public affairs Tony Castrilli said. “…The current contract has now been terminated, and the county is exploring options for acquiring collection and recycling services moving forward.”
As a nonprofit, ServiceSource can contract with Fairfax County without undergoing the competitive bidding process that the county government uses to hire private contractors that deliver needed goods and services.
Securis is a for-profit company, though, so when it came on as a subcontractor to handle county e-waste, Fairfax County determined that it would need to compete for a new contract.
After learning that it had lost the bid, Securis filed an initial protest with Fairfax County on July 11 as well as a subsequent official protest on July 18.
Calling for the solicitation to be re-bid, Securis argued in its protest that the county had deviated from its evaluation criteria by failing to analyze the proposals it received for cost reasonableness, disputing Fairfax County’s assertion that Powerhouse Recycling offered better pricing.
According to the protest, Powerhouse Recycling offered some superior terms in its cost proposal, but Securis would have given Fairfax County a 50 percent rebate from the resale of all recycled items, saving the government $545,112 compared to its competitor.
When contacted, Powerhouse Recycling directed the Fairfax County Times to Muse, who did not return direct requests for comment.
Securis CEO Jeremy Farber says the solicitation process felt rushed and was filled with mistakes, including an accidental release of confidential information during the final negotiations.
The request for proposals also featured a provision saying that companies with a staffing plan that includes employment for individuals with disabilities who reside in Fairfax County would be given preferential scoring in the solicitation process.
However, Muse told NBC4 in a video report published on July 25 that Fairfax County is not allowed to consider employment of people with disabilities as a factor for evaluation and that the provision “should not be in there.”
“The whole process was very sloppy,” Farber said. “Unprofessional is probably the word that I would use in describing the process, and I think the taxpayers of Fairfax County should know that, that their dollars are being used in a process that, in my mind, just has got tons of problems.”
Because Securis has never directly contracted with Fairfax County, Farber could not say whether the e-waste solicitation process was typical or unusual.
While the minutia of contract negotiations can seem tedious, Fairfax County’s award of its e-waste services contract held significant consequences for the nine people that Securis employed through ServiceSource.
Dan and Jenny Koprowski struggled to find employment for their son David, who has autism, after he graduated from Fairfax County Public Schools in 2017.
Under 20 percent of people with a disability are employed compared to 65.9 percent of people without a disability, a disparity that persists across age groups, and people with a disability were more than twice as likely to be unemployed than people without one, according to statistics released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Feb. 26.
After receiving vocational training from the Meaningful Opportunities for Successful Transitions program run in Fairfax by the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, David Koprowski got an opportunity when ServiceSource hired him to work on the Securis contract in May 2018.
“To have a special-needs adult, find meaningful work – not just busy work, but actual meaningful work – working alongside a team of employees with special needs and without, that was really a great situation and something that I think he took pride in,” Dan Koprowski said.
To learn that their son would lose his job due to a bureaucratic decision that in no way reflected his job performance was devastating to the Koprowskis.
“I do believe that the county made a short-sighted decision. I think they lost sight of the big picture here,” Jenny Koprowski said. “They lost sight of people. They made a decision based purely on, it appears, based purely on numbers, and they lost sight of the people that they impacted with that decision.”
Castrilli says Fairfax County is currently working with community partners to find employment opportunities for all of the individuals who lost their jobs when ServiceSource’s contract expired.
More than 1,400 people use employment and day program placement support offered by Fairfax County through the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. The service is open to all individuals deemed eligible for developmental disability services.
The county supported more than 3,600 people with developmental disabilities in 2018, according to Castrilli.
Fairfax County also partners with community groups, advocates, and stakeholders to address the needs of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities through the Welcoming Inclusion Network established in February 2018.
“Fairfax County will continue partnerships with the community and businesses as part of our ongoing commitment to help and support people with developmental disabilities,” Castrilli said.