Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The man who brought us Wallace Bajjali wants to take his leadership to Jefferson City

Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian is thinking about a run for the State Senate seat currently held by the term-limited Ron Richard.

O'Brian told the Joplin Globe he was forming an exploratory committee, making it sound as if he is mulling a run for president rather than the state legislature.

If he does enter the race, he will join Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin and Green Party candidate Conon Gillis of Joplin.

And O'Brian will have an immediate advantage since neither White nor Gillis can claim to have brought a major master developer firm like Wallace Bajjali to Joplin.

Imagine what he could bring to Jefferson City.

O'Brian's role in the City of Joplin's recovery from the May 22, 2011 tornado was featured in my 2015 book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud: Greed, Corruption and the Joplin Tornado.

The state audit of the City of Joplin came out a few weeks after the book was published and backed everything that had been written in it, offering plenty of detail as to O'Brian's involvement in the hiring of Wallace Bajjali, including his deletion of a key e-mail that would have shown that Wallace Bajjali provided a template for the hiring of a master developer that only Wallace Bajjali could meet.
The following passages are taken verbatim from the state audit:

Wallace Bajjali may have benefited from favorable treatment during the RFP and qualifications preparation and evaluation process because the RFP preparer and two evaluators had been meeting with David Wallace or employees of Wallace Bajjali before the RFP was drafted and proposals solicited.

In addition, the city did not take sufficient actions to eliminate potential conflicts of interest before awarding the master developer contract. The Joplin Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian (a member of the ITF) drafted the RFP and qualifications for the master developer during December 2011.

Chamber invoices indicate Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian and another chamber employee, Gary Box, traveled to Houston, Texas, on October 1, 2011, to meet with representatives of Wallace Bajjali. They also met with David Wallace in Joplin on October 13, 2011.

Box later evaluated the potential master developer proposals and was subsequently hired by Wallace Bajjali in August 2012. Additionally, an employee of Wallace Bajjali submitted a parking invoice from Dallas, Texas, dated December 5, 2011, which indicated he was meeting with city of Joplin representatives.

Chamber credit card invoices indicated Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian was also in Dallas, Texas, on December 5, 2011. Additionally, in sworn testimony Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian indicated he first met with Wallace in August 2011, and met with him several other times during the fall of 2011. 

Also in sworn testimony CART Chairperson Jane Cage indicated she had met Wallace a few months after the tornado and at other times during the fall of 2011. Chairperson Cage was also a member of the CART ITF and an evaluator. Chairperson Cage developed the evaluation scorecard, evaluated the master developer respondents and completed a scorecard, and compiled the totals of the scorecards.

It is questionable why the Chamber President, CART Chairperson, and another chamber employee had multiple meetings with a potential master developer company or its partners prior to drafting and evaluating the RFPs.

In sworn testimony Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian indicated Wallace suggested the "master developer concept" for redevelopment of the city, and a Wallace Bajjali employee emailed him a template of a RFP at Wallace's request. However, Chamber of Commerce President O'Brian indicated he deleted the email.

These prior relationships with Wallace Bajjali may have impaired the RFP preparer and the evaluators' ability to act impartially when preparing and evaluating the RFPs. Some of the RFP requirements and terminology may have been favorably written for Wallace Bajjali. The RFP included terminology regarding pursuit costs as a form of compensation, which was not used in proposals submitted by the 5 other RFP respondents. The ability to estimate these types of costs was also questioned by one of the respondents. In addition, some of the RFP requirements likely would have required the respondents more than a month to prepare and were questioned by other respondents.

The audit noted that three of the seven members of the committee that evaluated the master developer proposals gave Wallace Bajjali much higher scores than the others. One of those was Chamber of Commerce employee Gary Box, who was later hired by Wallace Bajjali.

O'Brian's role was also spelled out in 2012 CART minutes obtained by the Turner Report.

The CART records showed O'Brian pushed the hiring of Wallace Bajjali, noting the company's record in helping the Waco, Texas community recover from a tornado, even though the Waco tornado was in 1953 and Wallace Bajjali's projects in that community did not begin until more than a half century later (and were never completed).

The state audit also questioned the City of Joplin's providing large financial subsidies to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce when there was no indication the city was receiving anywhere near that much in return for its investment.

For more information about Rob O'Brian, Mark Rohr, C. J. Huff, Mike Woolston  and other prominent Joplin residents and how they responded during and after the May 22, 2011 Joplin Tornado, check out my book Silver Lining in a Funnel Cloud; Greed, Corruption and the Joplin Tornado, available in paperback and e-book formats at the Amazon links below or at Always Buying Books, Changing Hands Book Shoppe and The Book Guy in Joplin and Pat's Books in Carthage.


Anonymous said...

Does this mean if Rob O'Brian is elected to the State Senate - that he will have to take a pay cut from his $175,000 yearly salary (as Chamber of Commerce president)??? or will he do both jobs???

Anonymous said...

No shortage of chutzpah in politics, is there?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the perfect person to replace Richards to keep the republican ball rolling. Maybe he will get pointers from Richards about the best lobbyists to get money from and who is best to suck up to for the best committee appointments. I am not surprised to see things like this as Joplin is a breeding spot for lackluster backward thinking politicians and as such helps fosters things like Blunt, Long and Greitens to the "chosen ones" to lead Missouri in Kansatopia. Truck on and meanwhile try to explain away Mexico upping their purchase 900% of Brazil corn since NAFTA is on the ropes and farmers are crying in their cribs. Dumb, dumb and dumber.

Ozarker said...

Google Wallace Bajjali and read a few of the articles from Texas as well as the local ones. You will get your eyes opened!

Anonymous said...

It no secret the Chamber is LOSING money and he is looking for a way out.

Anonymous said...

My God, this guy is a perfect fit for the State Government. I bet the Governor can even give him the name of a good hairdresser.

Anonymous said...

He'll fit right in there in Jeff City.

Randy said...

Or put Wallace Bajjali in the search field at the top of this blog and you can find all of the posts I have written about Wallace Bajjali's lawsuits, bankruptcies and failures in Texas. You will find a considerable amount.I have been digging into them for more than five years.

Anonymous said...


Steve Holmes said...

Randy, between this and Mike Landis, I'd say Christmas has come early for you this year. No shortage of drama in the local campaigns.

Quoting Charles Dickens for the WIN said...

Angelou Economics???

The Pflugerville City Council is considering whether the city should partner in a development project, which developers say could be the difference between a $400 million project with a sprawling parking lot to a $1.2 billion project with a hotel, amphitheater and other community amenities.

Sounds almost too good to be true!


Cid Galindo, a longtime developer and former Austin Planning Commission member, owns the property, and is partnering with developer Presidium Group LLC and consulting firm Angelou Economics in the project.

David Wallace, chief operational officer of Angelou Economics, presented council members with initial details on the mixed-use project. With the city’s involvement, he said, the development could provide more than 1 million square feet in office space, 1,208 residential units and a 200-room hotel within the next 10 to 12 years.

Wallace, who served as mayor of Sugar Land when it created a public-private partnership with the Sugar Land Town Center, said he understands the decision Pflugerville council members face in this project.

“We are looking to create a mixed-use lifestyle that I think all of us have seen be very successful in other areas,” Wallace said, referring to the Sugar Land Town Center, the Domain in Austin and the Pearland Town Center.

Using Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” as a theme for the presentation, Wallace said the council must choose between two development scenarios in creating a “western gateway” to Pflugerville.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he'll start a baseball team in DC too.

Anonymous said...

The important thing to understand is that O'Brian is being encouraged and supported by members of the City leadership as the best chance to get legislation that is advantageous to the city and their elite special interests passed in Jeff City. Without Richards, the City will find it more difficult to get preferential treatment.

And, yes, the Chamber is losing ground in membership, revenues, and respect. From embezzlement by one of its own VPs of festival monies (which belonged to the citizens), the inappropriate scheming behind the selection of Wallace-Bajalli, the misleading study that was used to sell the City Council on the Blasters, the priority focus on downtown instead of the remaining 98% of the city, to a host of other missteps. Mr. O'Brian was driving the bus for all of this and should have been replaced years ago.

Anonymous said...

His teeth bother me.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if he went to Dook University? Maybe I'll google that!

Concerned citizen said...

Joplin continues mediocrity in its leadership...self serving pet projects....

Anonymous said...

It would be wonderful to be rid of him from the city. He is the ONLY common thread through Joplin’s poor choices. Blasters! Joplin ODORS! Wallace Bajjoli! Boomtown Days! Woolsten Library Land! Remodel Joe Becker! And now another finest??? Selling the Memorial Hall parking lot for $1 to Connect to Culture. Where would the thousands from last weeks successful rodeo park??? It ALL makes sense. He’s the only one who’s been around for all of these travesties.

Shannon Becker said...

Thank you Randy for covering this...he’s one of Joplin’s non-elected leaders that has never been held accountable for Wallace - Bajjoli (and other transgressions).

Anonymous said...

He is one of the reasons to leave Joplin.

Anonymous said...

He quit months ago at the Chamber.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you did this article. My husband retired from the city of Joplin. His dept used to call O'Brian certain names because of his past actions. He would do our area no good in Jefferson City. Vote for anyone but him!!!

Randy said...

To Anonymous 9:24, Check the date on this post. It was written February 26- before he quit.