UPDATE: Vote to finalize Muni security contract delayed over ethics concerns 

The lead negotiator of a critical $38 million security contract to guard Muni rail yards has questionable ties to the winning contractor. The contract is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors today for approval.

Gabrielle Lurie/Special to The Examiner

The lead negotiator of a critical $38 million security contract to guard Muni rail yards has questionable ties to the winning contractor. The contract is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors today for approval.

A $38 million Muni security contract was put on hold Tuesday, after a report by The San Francisco Examiner brought to light ethics concerns surrounding the contract's chief negotiator.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-0 to postpone the vote to finalize the security contract until April 14, until the ethics issues are resolved.

“Based on some of the controversy surrounding this contract, that continues to swirl around this contract, I would like to continue this to the April 14 Board of Supervisors meeting,” Supervisor John Avalos said to the board.

That controversy is swirling around one man in particular: Chris Grabarkiewctz, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s head of fare enforcement. He also led negotiations between two bidders for a $38 million security contract to guard Muni rail yards. Grabarkiewctz previously worked for Cypress, and was in charge of contracts between Cypress and the SFMTA while working there.

Now his role is reversed: He handles security contracts for the SFMTA, and aided Cypress in winning a bid for $38 million, which was the subject of The Examiner’s report Tuesday.

While working for Cypress In 2011, the security firm gave Grabarkiewctz a leadership award for earning “higher than expected gross profit” by contracting with the SFMTA. His critics contend Cypress is netting similar profits from Grabarkiewctz, now that he works at the SFMTA itself.

John St. Croix, executive director of the San Francisco Ethics Commission, said this alleged conflict of interest was uncommon – and so unique that ethics laws may not exist to protect from it.

Ethics codes exist that protect against city employees from leaving government to work for companies that would benefit from their contacts and knowledge, but not necessarily the reverse, St. Croix said.

“There’s nothing currently in law that addresses that reverse situation,” he said, except to protect against receiving gifts or bribes. He said he’d never seen an ethical conflict like this in his tenure at the ethics commission.

St. Croix was asked by The Examiner whether a new law should be made to address such situations.

“It would be worth looking at,” St. Croix replied, but, “I hesitate to say yes. In my tenure we come across situations we’ve never seen before. How often does it happen? If it’s a once in a lifetime occurrence, legislation it not necessarily an answer.”

If that type of situation in contract negotiations comes up more than once, St. Croix said, perhaps new ethics laws would be needed.

Joe@sfexaminer.com

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Bio:
Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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