Facts being determined in RFP complaint

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson confirmed that he has been asked to investigate possible city violations of the state’s procurement process.

Roger Leonard, a local businessman who frequently criticizes the city’s leadership, said he believes the city has discriminated against his franchise proposals for business expansions at Suffolk Executive Airport because of his outspokenness against local government.

Leonard, who often speaks at Suffolk City Council meetings and writes weekly columns for the Suffolk News-Herald, made the request in a July 26 letter to Ferguson..


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&uot;But I would not call it an investigation at this point,&uot; said Ferguson. &uot;Right now, we’re

simply attempting to determine the facts…and making inquiries to determine whether it is a matter that this office would be involved with.&uot;

In the letter, Leonard – who has leased space at the airport for the past 15 years – alleged that his attempts to expand his operations at the Carolina Road facility have been repeatedly stymied by local government.

Last year, Leonard submitted Requests for Proposals for four projects with investments totaling more $3.6 million.

According to city records, the Suffolk City Council authorized City Manager R. Steven Herbert to proceed with negotiations on Leonard’s proposal to build a $120,000 aircraft service center at a February meeting.

His other three proposals were deemed to not be in the city’s best interest, said Eric Nielsen Jr., the city’s public works director, who oversees airport operations.

&uot;I’ve been out here working on this for four years,&uot; Leonard said. &uot;This RFP is 10 months old and it seems to be going nowhere, specifically because I have been somewhat critical of city government.

&uot;I believe city has singled me because I’m active in community and have criticized city leaders at times.&uot;

The fact that the city has proceeded so rapidly on recent RFPs for the sale of the historic Jefferson School – which appears likely to be awarded to developer Mickey Garcia at the Aug. 17 council meeting – also raised questions, Leonard said.