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Postal Service will not renew 2 sole-source contracts

Mar. 25, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
The U.S. Postal Service said March 25 it will not renew two sole-source contracts that were steered to business associates of Robert Bernstock, the Postal Service's president of Mailing and Shipping Services.
The U.S. Postal Service said March 25 it will not renew two sole-source contracts that were steered to business associates of Robert Bernstock, the Postal Service's president of Mailing and Shipping Services. (Sheila Vemmer / Staff)

The U.S. Postal Service said Thursday it will not renew two sole-source contracts that were steered to business associates of an agency executive, and is holding open competitions to replace the contracts.

A $412,500 contract with consultant Richard Sorota will expire March 30. Another $600,000 contract, with consultant Lynne Alvarez, will expire May 17.

Federal Times reported in January that Robert Bernstock, the Postal Service's president of Mailing and Shipping Services, worked with Sorota and Alvarez when he was an executive at Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. and Vlasic Foods International Inc. The contracts showed he approved their no-bid deals, and the Postal Service said he directed the contracts their way because he was familiar with their expertise and had to bring people on quickly. Sorota and Alvarez were each hired to create marketing plans to increase Postal Service revenue.

"There was an urgency to jump-start the marketing organization in Bob Bernstock's first year," Postal Service spokesman Gerald McKiernan said in an e-mail to Federal Times. "The work remains urgent, but enough progress has been made to date to allow the competitive bid process to go forward."

Bernstock has steered almost $5.9 million in noncompetitive contracts to former business associates since he joined the Postal Service in 2008, according to contracts obtained by Federal Times through two Freedom of Information Act requests.

A $4.5 million deal with Tatum LLC of Philadelphia whose director, Elizabeth Shuttleworth, worked with Bernstock at both Vlasic and Scotts Miracle-Gro will expire in September. Shuttleworth is in charge of coordinating more than a dozen other contractors working on a massive Web site and call center upgrade called Project Phoenix.

A $325,000 market research and financial analysis contract with consultant Kimberly Wolfson who worked with Bernstock at Nutrisystem also is scheduled to expire in September.

McKiernan said the Postal Service has not yet decided whether it will rebid those two contracts.

Postal Service Inspector General David Williams is investigating Bernstock's deals.

The Postal Service said its ethics officers reviewed the deals and said they did not violate contracting guidelines. But contracting experts told Federal Times they are concerned that an executive is directing millions of dollars in contracts to business associates without competition.

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