An AECOM executive makes a presentation to win a construction management contract for sewer repairs in Miami-Dade County, as shown in in documents provided by rival CH2M Hill's attorney.

The $1.6-billion Miami-Dade county sewer repair project has produced a steady flow of controversy as Florida public officials changed the rules for competitors for the prime contract, and the two finalists clashed over the accuracy of their stated qualifications.

Where the sales work by the finalists ends, and unethical misrepresentation begins, is hard to tell at this point. Some of it concerns simple math that ought to be easy to agree on.

After competitors CH2M Hill and AECOM gave their first two originally planned presentations, the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Dept. selection committee recommended that the county award the project to CH2M Hill, which earned 452 qualitative points.

AECOM had earned 448 qualitative points, losing by a hair.

That much was pretty straightforward.

The number of presentations each competitor was allowed to make turned out to be less straightforward. Originally, it was supposed to be just two.

When Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) ordered a third round of presentations, the selection outcome reversed the order, with AECOM coming out ahead.

Gimenez must now decide which company to recommend for the contract.

The biggest bone of contention has been the number of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency consent decree cleanup programs, on which AECOM has served as prime contractor.

In a presentation to the Mayor’s Advisory Committee, AECOM’s prospective project manager, David Haywood, was asked how many consent decrees the company has served as prime contractor in the U.S.

“It is my recollection,” CH2M Hill’s attorney quotes Haywood as replying, “I’ll ask [AECOM Senior Vice President] Paul [DeKeyser] to correct me if I’m wrong here, but over 20 of those consent decrees we’ve been the actual prime on, if not more.”

At that point, Albert Dotson Jr., CH2M Hill’s attorney, quotes DeKeyser as saying, “I think it’s about 28. Prime, 28.”

If CH2M Hill’s account of the conversation is accurate, the number 28 is intriguing. CH2M Hill says it participated as prime contractor or subcontractor in 28 EPA-ordered consent decree programs under the federal Clean Water Act.

Dotson wrote to Gimenez that AECOM’s claim about the prime contracts had violated the county’s rules relating to false statements before a selection committee.

Dotson produced a list of EPA consent decrees under the Clean Water Act, based partly on information on an EPA website, that shows that CH2M Hill had served as the prime on nine consent decree projects and played a supporting role on 19 others.

Exactly 28 projects, altogether.

AECOM’s representative did not want to discuss the details, but said only that the firm was “selected purely by qualifications.”

This story was updated on Feb. 27 to show that CH2M Hill's point total in the contract competition was 452, only four points higher than AECOM's total.