Wednesday, April 25, 2012

(Riverside County) WILDOMAR: Grand jury criticizes bidding process

Press Enterprise - BY NELSY RODRIGUEZ STAFF WRITER - A report says Wildomar should have gone out for bids when it reduced a parks and rec contract A Riverside County grand jury faulted Wildomar’s decision to change a contract with a company run by a contracted employee without seeking outside bids for the work. In a three-page report released Monday, jurors allege the city provided no proof that it followed its own rule requiring open bidding for any contract worth $50,000 or more when it lowered an $87,600 contract with Diamond W Events for parks and recreation services to $60,900. The company’s president, Paula Willette, works on a contract with the city to oversee parks and recreation as its community services director. Willette could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Following the October 2009 approval of the original contract, a grand jury in July 2010 accused the city of violating its rules when it did not provide evidence that it accepted bids from other companies for that work. In a 52-page response that included reports showing the city hired Diamond W Events along with other companies for various jobs related to park maintenance and security, City Manager Frank Oviedo asserted that the company president’s established relationship with city officials alone was not basis enough for preventing the company from bidding on the work. Oviedo said several other companies were given short-term opportunities to prove they could handle the job and that Diamond W Events was one of several companies that formally applied for, and received portions, of the work. The city’s 2010 response said it considers many factors when awarding contracts. Oviedo wrote in the response, “General business relationships and friendships are not, in and of themselves, disqualifying relationships.” Now a second grand jury is questioning the city’s continued relationship with the company and its transparency in informing the public which employees are full time and which are contracted for specific services. In August 2011, when the city amended its contract with Diamond W Events, a grand jury requested public documents that would show the city allowed other companies to bid on the work. Bidding would have been required because the contract was greater than $50,000, jurors said. “The city did not present any such documents,” the report states. According to a city report presented during a city hearing in August, Diamond W Events had been providing “outstanding” service, but officials sought to reduce the contract amount to cut expenses. Oviedo questioned jurors’ interpretation of the contract amendment. “They lacked the rigor and analysis that I’m used to both managerially and legally,” Oviedo said. “Consequently, they drew inaccurate conclusions.” Responding to the finding that the city should be more up-front about which employees are contracted and which are full time, Oviedo said officials would examine the issue but the information always has been available. The city has until mid-July to formally respond.

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