Gateway Sun

At the March 1, 2018 meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services District, the community’s Public Works Manager Michael Tisch (pictured at the far left) was called a liar by the District Engineer, Tyler Wainright, who works for Tetra Tech.

The moment was punctuated by Wainright walking up to each Supervisor and handing out a prepared 100-page packet containing the apparent proof of Tisch lying to the board.

Well earlier this month, with Tetra Tech’s 3-year engineering contract up for renewal, Tisch must have figured it was time to get some payback.

As with any major contract, the GSCDD published a bid packet that invited interested companies to essentially “apply” for the job of District Engineer.

Five companies submitted the necessary paperwork, and a committee was formed to evaluate and rank the document submissions. Tisch was allowed on the committee despite his previous run in with one of the applicants, Tetra Tech.

But some surprising revelations were made at the GSCDD meeting on May 17.

According to Chairman Margaret Fineberg, another committee member told Fineberg that Tisch announced to the committee that the District’s “goal” in the evaluation process was to get rid of Tetra Tech.

Gateway’s lawyer Anthony Pires read an email that he got from Danny Nelson, a senior Tetra Tech staff member, saying that Tisch had approached a Tetra Tech employee named Rick in the field and Tisch let Rick know that the GSCDD couldn’t wait to get rid of Tetra Tech. (Rick’s last name was not read aloud.)

The email read by Pires also claimed that Tisch told Rick that the GSCDD would be bringing the engineering role in-house, rather than using a contractor. That statement confused the entire Board of Supervisors for several reasons — not the least of which, I’m sure, was that Tisch does not have anywhere near the level of authority to make those kinds of changes to the GSCDD.

Getting back to the document submissions, one person who has seen the scoring sheets told the Gateway Sun that Tisch, true to his word, gave Tetra Tech by far the worst score of any of the committee members.

But when Tisch’s scores were removed from the process later in the meeting, Tetra Tech actually scored the best out of the group of five.

The Sun hasn’t done the legwork to obtain the document submissions and scores ourselves because frankly we thought Tisch would already be gone by now, and that would be that. We weren’t even going to write an embarrassing piece about this situation because the district seemed to have a plan to handle it internally. We figured it would be announced that Tisch had departed the GSCDD at the next board meeting, and we would write a quick blurb to announce the change, and to provide a link to the information for any parties who were interested in knowing more about the situation.

So we were stunned to learn yesterday that not only does Tisch still have his job, but the disciplinary meeting that was supposed to take place between Fineberg, Pires, Tisch and District Manager Chris Shoemaker (Tisch’s boss) hasn’t even happened. And it’s been two weeks.

At the May 17 meeting, Supervisor Doug Banks called Tisch’s actions “unethical”. Pires told the room that he had never seen anything like this situation. The district also has the feedback from the committee member and the Tetra Tech engineers.

For his part, Tisch went through the rest of the meeting without even offering an apology.

But at this point, the public needs to know that the GSCDD hasn’t done its job. Everyone always talks about a lack of accountability at the district, and yet here’s basically a layup for them and they can’t even have the meeting.

At this point we’re concerned that the stalling could be to drag the situation out, make it seem not as bad as time goes by, and then find a way to not terminate Tisch’s employment.

In a weird way, it’s not fair to Tisch to drag this on and then fire him after several weeks go by.

If there was some legitimate reason the meeting could not take place, then hopefully Tisch has been suspended with pay until the meeting.

Banks was right, attempting to deliberately corrupt the process to award the District Engineering contract was totally unethical. And it could have created a huge legal liability for the GSCDD had Tisch been able to stay more disciplined in what he said about his plan.

Clearly there’s no way the Board of Supervisors can trust Tisch going forward.

Tisch has done what he’s done, and the the GSCDD must do what it needs to do.

In fact, it should have already been handled by now.

In the interests of full disclosure, there was an unrelated incident last year where Tisch misled the Board of Supervisors about our reporting, claiming we had made an error when we had not. In my opinion, Tisch’s advice affected the outcome of a board vote which impacted about a thousand Gateway families in a negative way.

We chalked that situation up to “you can’t win ’em all”. We said our peace to one particular board member and to Tisch in private emails, and moved on.

Lastly, we have never heard anything — not even a rumor — regarding any members of the Board of Supervisors looking to get rid of Tetra Tech.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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