His company has put roofs on federal prisons, sturdy bridges over creeks on public lands, dug flood control channels and renovated government buildings.
What Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga wants to do now more than anything is build a wall.
Not a simple wall, but The Wall — the big, beautiful wall along the southwest border that President Donald Trump made a centerpiece of his campaign and an increasingly important part of his administration.
An impatient Trump wants the project to start. But In a curious twist Evangelista-Ysasaga, the CEO of Penna Group LLC in Fort Worth, Texas, is the one who — for now — has held it up.
In July, Penna filed a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) after it was not one of the companies selected as finalists in the competition to construct prototypes of the wall barrier. The government will select a winner for the potentially lucrative project from the final designs.
The prototypes were supposed to be under construction by now. But the protest halted any further work by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on reviewing and eventually approving a winning proposal.
The protest has put the timeline for construction of the models back several months, a CBP spokeswoman said. The agency now expects work to begin in late October or November.
The protest from Penna argues it was excluded from the final cut on a technicality that was wrongly applied. The solicitation put out by the government eventually included seven amendments, Evangelsita-Ysasagas said.
When submitting the proposal he signed the seventh amendment — one that he said clearly stated that it incorporated the previous six.
But the government held that all amendments had to be signed individually and rejected the bid out of hand, he said.
Evangelista-Ysasaga said that the government wanted to eliminate as many bidders as possible to move the fast-tracked process along.
He said there are precedents that clearly say excluding bidders for such a violation is erroneous, and he expects to win the protest.
“The politicians didn’t allow enough time for the normal contracting process to occur,” he said. “They received hundreds of bids for the border wall project, and they had to figure out a way to cull the herd. They used this dragnet to cull bidders, and really rejected a lot of folks on this basis.”
In a statement, CBP said it was “aware that GAO is currently reviewing bid protests by a vendor that was not selected for further consideration under two solicitations for the design and construction of wall prototypes.”
The statement said such protest are common, and while it expected it would delay construction of the prototypes until late October or November, work could start earlier if the protest is resolved sooner, before the Oct. 4 deadline.
Evenagelista-Ysasaga said that he’s also concerned that the government wants large companies.
“What’s happening is in this rush they are going with large companies they know, the Boeings, Halliburtons, KBR,” he said, ticking off three of the largest corporate government contractors
“There isn’t any room made for smaller companies that are perfectly capable of performing the scope and magnitude of this project.”
Evangelista-Ysasaga called Trump’s wall “the biggest project in the world.” The government specifications called for a wall at least 30 feet tall, designed to prevent climbing and constructed to prevent digging below the wall for at least six feet.
Each bidder submitted designs for two types of walls — one concrete, the second “other material.” Penna’s designs are for a fluted, or corrugated, concrete wall, and a second of high-strength double-wire mesh made of steel.
Evangelista-Ysasaga has been criticized as a Latino bidder working on a project largely reviled by opponents as both a colossal boondoggle and racist. He often received threatening messages; once, someone called him on his cell phone and was able to describe where he was at the time.
But when he filed the protest, wall proponents weighed in.
The far right news site Breitbart published a story with a headline that described him as a pro-immigrant CEO he said. After that the windows in the company’s Fort Worth offices were smashed out, he said.
“The backlash has been pretty alarming,” he said.
Evangelista-Ysasaga, whose grandparents immigrated from Mexico, said he is an advocate for both strong borders, and comprehensive immigration reform. He said securing the border is the first step in that process — and his company wants to be part of a project. Costs estimates for the wall construction vary from about $21 billion up to $65 billion.
Congress is weighing whether to appropriate at least $1.6 billion for construction of the wall and more fencing next year. CBP already has $20 million set aside to build the prototypes in San Diego. The agency said it expected four to eight sample walls to be constructed here.
It’s unclear what happens if GAO agrees with Penna’s protest. It’s unlikely the bidding process would restart, said David Taylor, a lawyer who specializes in federal contracting.
“The decision can be tailored to say go back and redo this, and do your evaluation more carefully,” he said, adding that Penna may have a sound argument.
“If he signed the last one,” he said of the amendments, “he’s good.”
Evangelista-Ysasaga said that could get the company back in the running. “We want to make sure this process is fair for everyone,” he said, “not just the Boeings and KBRs of the world.”
(c)2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune
Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.