Letter: Favored Vendors?

by MissionViejoDispatch.com on January 7, 2013

Mission Viejo is categorized as a “contract city.” A contract city is one which typically goes out for competitive bids for specific public services, the largest being our $15 million contract with the OC Sheriff’s Department for public safety.

But there are others that fly under the radar in our city such as a $282,000 two-year contract for inspections of playgrounds and other facilities. The only bidder in 2011 has held that contract exclusively for many years. He also repeatedly receives another contract, now almost $700,000, for miscellaneous services. Work performed includes moving heavy items, maintenance of City water features, all playground equipment repairs, graffiti removal at playgrounds and parks, painting and drywall repair of City offices, light carpentry fencing repair, and providing some labor for special events etc. There was only one other bidder for that contract. Ironically, the lack of bids occurred during the down economy of 2011 when contractors were hungry for business.

Frequently city contracts provide for multi-year extensions by the City Council without further bidding. The relevant issue is whether competitive bidding is an illusion when other contractors may perceive that Mission Viejo consistently awards some contracts to favored vendors. If so, taxpayers may not be receiving the due benefit from being a contract city.

Larry Gilbert

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Desi Kiss January 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Happy New Year!
I would suggest some commentators get their facts straight or do their homework before listing City Contract numbers. Also providing the source or reference would be both thoughtful and very helpful. The OC Sheriff’s Department “contract” is actually 19M +

[Editor's Note: Ed invites Mr. Kiss do his homework and provide documentation if he wants to dispute facts. The OCSD Law Enforcement Service Agreement is $15,169,689, as shown on page 14 of the current contract. A new agreement will be considered for the period beginning July 1, 2013.]

Desi Kiss January 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm

The contract provided here (and called current) is obsolete and ended on June 30, 2011. The new contract ending June 30, 2013 is approximately 19 M. Moreover The City Council on 09/17/12 approved a plan to use an additional 228K in the 2012-2013 Supplemental Law Enforcement Services Funds for Motorcycle Patrol Unit Positions. Have a wonderful week!

[Editor's Note: The 2011-12 contract included a provision (page 3) which permitted the Agreement to be extended until June 30, 2013.]

F. Stephen Masek January 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Bidding is expensive for government agencies, so if they have a good company under contract, they can do taxpayers a favor by keeping them. My company works for several cities and school districts which have benefited greatly by utilizing our services for many years. They get top service and prices far below the industry average, and do not have the cost over-runs and other problems of some who bid-out every project.

The main problem I see with government bids is poorly written requirements and poorly prepared plans which allow vendors to go nuts with overcharges. I know of two school districts have been the victims of vendors who claimed that minor things they should be able to anticipate and deal with are “change orders.” They claim to be experts on construction when bidding, but after winning can’t seem to figure-out anything (e.g. the need to move an electrical outlet up of down a bit so it does not conflict with a shelf).

My wife read about a contractor who won a bid to supply trucks to carry the new currency of Iraq. The bid was poorly written, so the crook supplied trucks from junk yards which did not run, but had to be towed! I hope they shot him.

When I lived in Washington DC and worked for a San Diego software company, I got a call one day from NASA. It seems they put out a poorly-written request for proposals (RFP) for minicomputers (hundreds of thousands of dollars each), and wound up with eight or so for which there was no software! They asked if our software could operate on their machines. I told them that we would need one of the machines delivered to our headquarters, and would have to charge time and materials to try to port our software to these unknown things. I think they wound-up sending them all to the junkyard.

One of the services my company provides are asbestos and lead surveys / inspections of buildings. I have yet to see a good one on any military building. Last year, we worked on a building at a local base where the military had hired a gaint high-overhead company in Texas, which in turn hired a local company to inspect a hotel building slated for renovation. They failed to look in the attic and crawl space, where old asbestos pipe insulation was scattered all about, even though both spaces were easily accessible. The change order cost over $200,000. When we first looked at the old El Toro base in 1999, we thought we would simply need to review and summarize the existing asbestos surveys which two companies had done for great sums of money. After three hours of reviewing the files, we realized that the cabinets of binders were really full of work so bad that it was nothing more than scrap paper. Had the specifications for the work been well-written, no such problems would have occurred.

Larry Gilbert January 8, 2013 at 11:47 am

Has Mr. Kiss bothered to review the city web site where he can find every dime spent on city contracts be it quarterly reports or FYE June 30 2012? In the above subject maintenance contracts the combined CAP was $479,000. The year end totals for this vendor were $494,000, or $25,000 above the ceiling. I’m not sure if there were any Change Orders issued, however. How convenient that a vendor can use a crystal ball for this type of unpredictable work and eventually reach and even exceed the agreed to limits.

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