A veritable waterfall of words has been written since April 4 about the federal government’s decision to move the regional Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, and its 610 jobs, from gritty downtown Kansas City, Kan., to the enticing Kansas suburb of Lenexa.
From the information that’s been put out, I can’t gauge whether moving to Lenexa is a good business decision or not. The Kansas City Business Journal says it is, while The Kansas City Star suggests that it is not. More information is needed to make a determination, it seems to me, and maybe it will come out.
In the meantime, though, one key question has gone unanswered: Who made the decision?
We know this much: The agency within which the decision was made was the General Services Administration, which is the federal government’s real estate arm.
But who at the GSA made the decision?
Isn’t it the case that in almost every real estate deal someone makes the decision? A live person, someone in authority, assumes responsibility and says, “We’re accepting this proposal, and we’re rejecting that proposal.”
Shockingly — shockingly, I tell you — no one at the GSA has stood up to take responsibility.
You’ll be happy to know, however, that your intrepid, irrepressible blogger has conducted a thorough investigation and has come up with the answer.
The decision was made by none other than Carnac the Magnificent, the old “mystic from the East,” who has the power to “divine” unseen answers to unknown questions.
When Carnac was last heard from, he was making periodic appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Carson’s longtime sidekick Ed McMahon would set the stage for Carnac by dramatically saying: “I hold in my hand the envelopes. As a child of four can plainly see, these envelopes have been hermetically sealed. They’ve been kept in a #2 mayonnaise jar under Funk and Wagnall’s porch since noon today. No one knows the contents of these envelopes, but you, in your borderline divine and mystical way, will ascertain the answers having never before seen the questions.”
Here’s how I know that Carnac is alive and well and calling the shots on the EPA deal.
First, I talked to GSA spokesman Charlie Cook, whom the GSA threw out to the media hounds to explain and defend the decision to go to Lenexa.
Cook, a cooperative fellow who actually picks up his own phone, said that a “selection panel” consisting of GSA and EPA employees evaluated the competing offers for the EPA regional offices. Those included proposals from the owner of the Lenexa building, on Renner Road, and the owner of the Minnesota Avenue building that the EPA has been housed in since 1999.
From there, I called Jason Klumb, regional administrator for the GSA. Regional administrator — top guy in the Heartland Region. Must have had something to say about the decision, one would surmise.
I reached a secretary in Klumb’s office and asked to speak to Klumb. She asked me to hold and came back a few seconds later, saying Klumb was “in a meeting” and would call me back.
Right, I’m standing by. I was going out to rake the dead spots in the lawn, but now I’m going to wait for Jason’s call…OK, I’ve waited two minutes and he hasn’t called back, so I’m on my way to the garage.
A longtime friend who knows the intricacies of the federal system and specifically knows a lot about the GSA told me that Klumb wouldn’t have made the decision, anyway. The person who probably made the decision, the friend said, was Mary Ruwwe, regional GSA commissioner for public buildings service.
My friend gave me her number, and I called it. Shockingly — shockingly, I tell you — she picked up. (Now, either that’s a great source or Ms. Ruwwe is one accessible public official.)
When I told her I had heard that she might be the person who made the decision on the EPA relocation, she said, “I am not involved in the acquisition process.”
She proceeded to elaborate on the panel that Cook had told me about. It is “a source selection panel,” she said, consisting of “contracting specialists and contracting officers” from the GSA and the EPA regional offices.
The panel members, she said, were charged with analyzing and scoring various factors, both technical and financial and then presenting their findings to…”THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY.”
Yes, THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY — someone within the regional GSA office who was vested with the power to make the decision on the EPA headquarters.
I mustered up the courage to ask what I viewed as the seminal question: Just who is THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY?
“I have to find out what I can give you at this point in time,” Ms. Ruwwe replied.
As I was most keen on learning the identity of THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY, I gave her my home and cell numbers and e-mail address.
A few hours later, I heard back from the GSA…Not from Klumb and not from Ruwwe, however. No, it was my new friend Charlie Cook, who said Klumb and Ruwwe had asked him to return my calls to them.
So, I got tough and mean — very mean– with Charlie, demanding, “Just who is this THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY?”
His initial answer was “a GSA leasing specialist.” After we talked for a few more minutes, he augmented it to “a seasoned GSA leasing specialist.”
But he couldn’t give me the specialist’s name, he said, because that’s very sensitive, closely held information.
I thanked Charlie for his time and patience and told him he had helped me out. He had led me right to the door of THE SOURCE SELECTION AUTHORITY.
It’s elementary; it’s Carnac.