- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - An audit found that the winner of an events management contract for the University of Houston’s $128 million stadium had more information than was available to other bidders.

Administrators say Aramark had more information because the university pursued the company for a contract since 2012, long before it began requesting bids to manage the stadium, the Houston Chronicle reported.

School auditors released preliminary details Thursday on a review involving Aramark, which has long provided food services at the school. Regents discussed but took no action on the audit. The Texas Dow Employees Credit Union (TDECU) Stadium opened last fall.

Auditor Don Guyton said the contracting process was “compromised” but he found no evidence that the omission of information from the request for proposals was intentional.

“When we issued the (request for proposals), Aramark had more information than was available to anyone else,” Guyton told the board of regents. “My opinion is the whole RFP process was compromised.”

Aramark spokesman David Freireich declined to comment on the bidding process. Rather, he said in a statement to The Associated Press, “We are committed to delivering services that enhance the university’s athletic programs and look forward to continuing our work with the university to provide unique programming and experiences for students.”

School administrators had requested a proposal that would guarantee a minimum of $1 million to the university annually. The bid the school accepted from Aramark did not include that guarantee.

Administrators said they did not believe that the lack of a guarantee was a “material” difference from other bids they received. Deeming the omission a “material” difference would have forced them by law to reject the proposal.

“As far as I’m concerned, $1 million is material, and therefore Carl Carlucci broke the law,” student body president Charles Haston said.

Carlucci, who runs the university’s Department of Administration and Finance, was responsible for the Aramark contract. He told the Regents that university had been looking at several options for managing the stadium, but a sole-source contract with Aramark was pursued.

“At that time, we felt very strongly it had to be a recruitment that had to be a sole source, that you wouldn’t get any response on the street because there were competing venues already under management by other vendors,” Carlucci said. “We were going sole source, because we thought we had to recruit somebody.”

This audit is one of three ongoing reviews looking into the school’s handling of the construction and management of its TDECU stadium.

Another audit found that the university appropriately spent academic-only funding on band classrooms at the stadium.

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