For the second time this year, Miami-Dade County was forced to adjust payments to a vendor after NBC 6 Investigators revealed county employees failed to properly calculate cost-of-living adjustments under public contracts.
While the companies are different, they are both headed by the same man: Ray Gonzalez, the head of several transportation companies that, with their associates, donate more money to county commissioners' campaigns and political committees than almost any other entity in the county.
In the latest mistake, the county's aviation department failed to increase the amount Gonzalez's Super Shuttle operation is required to pay for the right to pick up and drop off passengers at the Miami International Airport curbside.
After NBC 6 Investigators questioned airport officials last week, the company was sent a bill for $36,000, which it promptly paid. That's the amount it had been undercharged since March 2013, when the airport inexplicably failed to increase Super Shuttle's minimum guaranteed payment of $783,138 by 1.8 percent. The contract required that increase because inflation had increased 1.8 percent over the previous year.
Earlier this year, the county was forced to recalculate payments to another Gonzalez company, Transportation America, after NBC 6 Investigators uncovered several irregularities in the oversight of its $208 million paratransit contract.
Some of those mistakes led to overpayments to Transportation America, but the county determined the largest mistake, again miscalculating cost-of-living adjustments, had resulted in the county retaining more money than it should have. In the end, the county wound up paying TA $151,000 to reconcile those errors.
In the airport contract, Anne Lee, the airport's chief financial officer, quickly saw the mistake after being questioned by NBC 6 Investigators.
"It was a math error. It was an oversight. It was caught and we do periodically review these things. It got missed. We're sorry," Lee said in an interview.
Lee said audits and financial reviews of contracts were designed to catch mistakes like this and she was unsure how they failed to detect the errors, which continued for two and a half years.
"It was just missed," she said.
An attorney for the company that runs Super Shuttle said it relies on the county to determine what is owed and did not notice the mistake, but once it reviewed the airport’s demand for payment, it promptly sent the airport a check for $36,000.
The company has complained about how increased tolls and competition from unlicensed ridesharing companies Lyft and Uber have cut into its revenues at the airport, where it is supposed to have exclusive access to curbside ground transportation customers.
In March, Gonzalez persuaded the county commission to let Super Shuttle add luxury vans to its fleet and charge passengers 60 percent more than it does for rides in the familiar blue and gold Super Shuttle vans the company operates.