Business associates, who received a $49,140 city contract, contributed to Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr.’s campaigns
The business partners, who received a city contract that has now set Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on fire over transparency, contributed to Scott’s 2018 campaign and continued to support him financially during his re-election.
In addition, a city spokesman on Friday acknowledged that the only tangible work product owned by the city related to the $49,140 contract is a draft slideshow presentation that has never been presented to the city council.
In Little Rock, contracts under $50,000 can be signed for approval by the City Manager and do not require formal City Council review as long as the purchase has been subject to a competitive bid.
Records tied to the contract are now at the center of a row between Scott and Ward 4’s town manager Capi Peck that blew up in public this week.
Peck has accused Scott of ordering the city’s planning and development director, Jamie Collins, to withhold a document related to the bid that had been requested by one of Peck’s constituents, Kent Myers.
According to Peck, Collins told her late last month that Myers’ request was “lazy,” that it might be related to the Nov. 8 election, and that Scott didn’t want him to put it to Myers.
Little Rock City manager Bruce Moore confirmed at a city council meeting Tuesday that Peck had conveyed the exchange to him during an Oct. 28 phone call.
Scott has denied ordering Collins to withhold anything. The mayor has argued that Myers is not only a supporter of Scott’s leading opponent in the race, Steve Landers Sr., but also serves as an advisor to the retired auto dealer.
Likewise, Collins has denied the claim. “I was not directed by the mayor or any official not to release information,” the planning director wrote in a recent email to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Peck, a restaurant owner who has represented Ward 4 since 2017, is not up for re-election until 2024.
According to city records, in July 2020, the city applied for Qualification No. 840 to seek development consulting services.
“The City of Little Rock is seeking a plan with recommendations to strengthen our neighborhoods and improve opportunities for our residents, day workers and employers, and visitors,” the document reads. “To that end, the city is requiring three comprehensive development plans for the following areas: 1) The greater downtown business, government, and entertainment district; 2) The I-630 corridor; 3) The historic portion of Southwest Little Rock.”
Email records show that Collins wrote to Scott on July 1, 2020 to propose membership of a selection committee related to the bid opening.
In addition to himself, Collins proposed that the committee consist of Scott’s then-Chief of Staff Charles Blake, Interstate Relations Manager Emily Cox, then-Parks and Recreation Director John Eckart, and Scott’s then-Senior Adviser Kendra Pruitt.
Scott approved the list that same day.
Records show the city received five responses. They were sent by the following offices listed as primary contacts: Urban Design Associates, Tunnell-Spangler & Associates, Design Workshop, Pfeffer Torode Architecture and A Squared.
A Squared’s offer response of July 29, 2020 suggested that the permanent partnership is with Cromwell; Jones Lang LaSalle; olin; VCC construction; and Con Real.
In its response to an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request, the city provided a video of a Little Rock purchasing official, Derrick Rainey, reading out responses received as part of Request for Qualifications #840.
A Squared is not among the five entities that Rainey names in the video and submitted the responses.
Despite this, A Squared ultimately got the nod. An assessment document provided by the city shows the company received a score of 192 — the highest score among five bidders — followed by Urban Design Associates at 188.
Public records indicate that A Squared Global, LLC was incorporated in Texas with Alley as the registered agent on July 29, 2020, but as of June 24, 2022 the company ceased to operate in the state.
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts website states that A Squared Global’s registration or certificate ended involuntarily due to a tax or administrative forfeiture.
Blue Hog Report’s Matthew Campbell, who recently went to court to obtain records from Scott’s administration, first reported Wednesday on a timeline of events surrounding the A Squared contract, including campaign donations.
The two business partners behind A Squared were Gerald Alley and Sam Alley. They are not related to each other.
Gerald Alley is President and Chief Executive Officer of Con-Real, based in Texas. Sam Alley resigned as chief executive officer of VCC Construction last year but remains chairman.
Both men have endorsed Scott as mayoral candidates.
In October 2018, Gerald Alley contributed $1,000 to Scott’s first campaign. Sam Alley contributed $500 that same month. Haitham Alley, Sam Alley’s brother, also contributed $500 that month.
During the current election cycle, Gerald Alley donated $2,000 to Scott in August; his wife, Candace, contributed $1,000 in February.
Sam Alley’s son, Derek, contributed $1,000 to Scott’s reelection campaign in February, and Sam Alley himself contributed $1,000 in late March.
Another person listed in the company’s bid response among the proposed A Squared employees was Chris East, who contributed $1,000 to Scott’s reelection campaign in August.
When asked if those contributions gave A Squared an advantage in its bid, Scott’s spokesman, Aaron Sadler, wrote in an email Friday: “The committee that selected this proposal more than two years ago did so without regard to whether anyone had donated to a campaign, and the mayor is not involved in the city’s procurement process.”
When asked if officials were trying to circumvent city government considerations with a contract amount that fell below $50,000, Sadler wrote, “Contract prices were provided by the contractor, not the city, and represent the cost of the scope of work by the project.”
The Democrat-Gazette obtained a copy of the same slide show Collins finally provided to Myers on Oct. 30 — two days later, when Peck said Collins told her about the mayor’s alleged order.
The presentation of A Squared is stamped Draft and is dated February 22, 2022. It consists of a total of 23 slides, many of which contain a map of one type or another.
A summary of key results for the three Little Rock zones calls for more multi-family housing in downtown as well as additional multi-family housing near War Memorial Park due to strong demand there.
The slideshow shows a small supply of multi-family homes in Southwest Little Rock, although it says certain lots are available for development. It also cites growing retail and industrial sectors in southwest Little Rock.
The presentation recommends that the city launch a bidding process for the development of workers’ housing in the Medical District.
When Collins provided him with a link to the slideshow on the morning of October 30, Myers said he was looking for another plan or report.
In a response to Myers, Collins said the city had “determined a phased approach to the proposed areas.”
“The first phase was just looking at the three areas and providing a market analysis to determine and balance supply and demand with the highest and best use of the properties,” Collins wrote. “At the end of the first phase there should be a presentation to the board. The project has been put on hold prior to this presentation. No final presentation is available at this time.”
At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, when asked by Ward 3 City Manager Kathy Webb about the War Memorial Park, Scott said he couldn’t remember anything related to the study.
Scott recalled that consultants had prepared some plans that examined downtown, the I-630 corridor and Southwest Little Rock as part of the “Rebuild the Rock” tax proposal that failed in the September 2021 election.
He couldn’t remember seeing the market analysis.
A city seller payment sheet shows A Squared was paid $49,140 on May 6, 2022.
“All invoices must be approved by the department and submitted to Accounts Payable so they can be processed and paid. My understanding [is that] this happened in April and the bill was paid in May,” city spokesman Spencer Watson wrote in an email on Friday.
“The presentation is just that, a presentation,” added Watson. “It is intended to be a distillation of all data collected, synthesized and analyzed by the contractor over the course of contract performance to present a concise conclusion with actionable recommendations. It is the only work product owned by the city.”