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5.4 MILLION TAXPAYER DOLLARS FOR STEMWARE – ROSE COLORED GLASSES DON’T COME CHEAP

April 26, 2010

WASHINGTON — Politically connected staffers in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department twisted arms to steer a $5.4 million contract for crystal stemware to a tiny interior-design firm without putting it out for bid — a move that shut out a well-known New York glassmaker, a department whistleblower told The Post.

Two senior State Department contracting officials, Randolph Bennett and Tandra Jones, successfully pushed for the contract to go to a firm run by Denise Mathis-Gardner as a no-bid minority “8(a)” contract, the source said — an action that one shut-out competitor complained cost taxpayers an extra $1 million.

The contracted firm, Systems Design Inc., based in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood, had no experience making glassware, and its owner had only recently emerged from bankruptcy proceedings, the source said.

As The Post first reported last month, SDI shut out upstate’s Steuben Glass, which has made government glassware since the Truman administration.

“These two [Bennett and Jones] went down to the small-business office and insisted that we have an 8(a) company — have this company SDI do our contract,” the source said.

“They [SDI] don’t know how to make glass. The glassware is being made in Sweden.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) met with State officials to grill them about the contract last month, shortly after The Post’s report, and said afterward that the department would reopen the contract for bidding.

Records show Bennett gave $1,000 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, $2,000 to the Obama Victory Fund and $2,300 to the Democratic National Committee for the inauguration.

According to the source, Bennett and Jones and their superiors steered the contract to SDI even after agency officials and at least one competitor complained it was a taxpayer rip-off.

“My belief is that this process is tainted and preferential treatment was given,” said James Stieff, whose firm was shut out of the work. An e-mail with Stieff’s complaint to a top State official was obtained by The Post.

Neither Bennett nor Jones returned messages requesting comment.

geoff.earle@nypost.com
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/hill_aides_in_bully_crystal_pQKF9KvlWlscYjnvKFKL9H#ixzz0mB0bEEhw

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/hill_aides_in_bully_crystal_pQKF9KvlWlscYjnvKFKL9H#ixzz0mB0U4OY5

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