Wednesday, October 8, 2008
At the City Council Retreat on September 30th Mayor Bowers attempted to explain the bid procurement procedure. Bowers said, “once the RFP has been issued it is not something that council members ought to be involved with … and my suggestion to the manager is to send us a message if she wants us to be involved.” Bowers explained that it takes on legal connotations once the RFP is issued and when it is being evaluated. If Council members are contacted by potential bidders or their representatives Council may be accused of having influenced the decision. He said, “if someone is not awarded the bid and they hear that Council has unintentionally interfered you are probably asking for some problems.”
Darlene Burcham went further asking to clear the air – All localities are governed by the Virginia Public Procurement Act. Currently the policy authorizes the city manager, not the City Council, to award contracts. So when in closed session there is the understanding not to bring Council into the decision making. Under Procurement there are strict guidelines on how proposals are to be evaluated. The City always uses the Committee process. That proposal [Market building] had an outside member from Hotel Roanoke. Only the committee can pose a question to a vendor. Not even the City manager can pose a question to the vendor. It can only be posed by the Purchasing manager.
Burcham said it was an unusual situation for someone to ask to see a proposal before it is awarded or rejected. If any member of Council in the future is interested in seeing a response we need to have it known to the full Council then it can be made available to those Council members interested in seeing it. She said she had “never had a request like that before or at any other place she had worked.” Burcham said in regard to the request made by Councilman Court Rosen that her answer was appropriate as it was prior to Council having any discussion on it. She thought that all Council members now know what is appropriate as a result of that example. Burcham said, “I do agree with the Mayor’s statement and I know where on a recent RFP some of you were contacted.” Council will be contacted in the future by individuals to give a sales pitch in advance of awarding a bid. Work up to that point should be done in a confidential manner. Burcham said this is the way we keep ourselves from being sued or having challenges to the process.
Rosen said, “certainly when I asked for that [DRI Market proposal] it was not that I wanted to share any information. I am just surprised on such issues of this magnitude to the community that nobody has asked to see a proposal -Like proposals for Countryside – like right now I’d like to ask can we see proposals for Countryside.”
Burcham said, just because they [DRI] went public with it it does not absolve us from liability.
Rosen said, “as a member of the legislature I should be able to see the proposal before decisions are made – that’s what people expect.”
Burcham said – “lessons learned and roles need to be clarified.”
Gwen Mason said “it is really easy to make a misstep in ethics or impropriety.”
Bowers said we can try to help our citizens understand what the role of Council is. What is and is not the roll of the mayor – Educate the public. Bowers said we have a Council manager form of government. Virginia is the only state with complete division between County and City.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Categories: Politics, Roanoke City Politics