Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon has delayed the award of a lucrative graffiti cleanup contract and called for an investigation, saying the proposed contractor wants too much money and lacks experience.
City public works officials had recommended that a private nonprofit group called Neighborhood Pride be given a $500,000 contract for an experimental, six-month program to remove graffiti within 24 hours of the time it is reported in parts of the San Fernando Valley and the city.
The Board of Public Works was scheduled earlier this week to approve the recommendation, but indefinitely delayed any action after Alarcon voiced his concerns.
In a letter released late Friday, Alarcon, who represents the northeast Valley, said he is concerned by the choice of Neighborhood Pride because the two-month-old group was the highest bidder for the portion of the program in his district, has no experience in graffiti removal and no community ties.
"I question how . . . Neighborhood Pride . . . could be recommended over community-based organizations and others who also submitted proposals and have records of over 20 years experience in grass-roots graffiti cleanups," Alarcon stated.
Members of Neighborhood Pride and city public works officials could not be reached for comment late Friday.
But a spokeswoman for Alarcon said he was told by public works officials that the group was selected because it is the only one that owns a special paint-matching machine that allows workers to cover over graffiti without leaving tell-tale patches.
However, officials knew that a landfill operator in Pacoima recently donated about $60,000 so the city could buy the same paint-matching machine for use by whoever gets the graffiti cleanup contract, Alarcon pointed out in his letter.
"I find it outrageous that . . . competing organizations were marked down in the selection process for the lack of this equipment," Alarcon said. "I ask the Public Works Commission to investigate this matter fully to determine any improprieties that may have occurred in the bid process."
Five organizations submitted bids for the "Zero Tolerance" graffiti program, entering separate bids for the three council districts where the work will take place. Neighborhood Pride bid $576,459 for the whole job, including $115,315 in Alarcon's district. By contrast, the lowest bidder in Alarcon's district was New Directions for Youth, a private, nonprofit group based in the Valley, which offered to do the job for $33,330.