Sunday, April 26, 2009

Playing the "Single Source Vendor" Card

Recently re-elected school board member John Whalen stated very clearly during his STAR interview,

"The school board is responsible for setting policy to give direction to the school district. We're policy makers and it's up to the administration to figure out procedures on how it gets done, and that flows down to the principals and the staff," Whalen said. "That's, I guess, my style. Some people get caught up in wanting to micromanage the individual areas, and I see this as more of an oversight position."
What we're wondering however is, at what point does the aversion to MICROmanaging become so great that no managing at all is the end result?

First we have no record that the board has received quarterly bid reports discussed in a previous post. In addition, along the continued theme of competitive bidding, we have yet another board policy that is being ignored.

Way back in October 2006, the discussion of architects for elementary #7 (Creekside) came before the FT&T committee. The committee was prepared to simply name Bray Associates as the architect without any bidding until a citizen and a board member commented on that move.

The simple questions asked were.

"How does simply handing Bray Architects a contract without competitive bidding a fiscally sound decision?

How can we be sure that we will get the best design that will be cost-effective while meeting our elementary space needs?

How do you hand Bray a contract when your own policy requires competitive bidding on all contracts of this magnitude?"
The answer came from--of all people-- Caren Diedrich, who responded that by virtue of having done work on all Sun Prairie schools, they essentially met the criteria of "single source vendor" that allows an exemption from competitive bidding.

Wow! With that line of thinking, Caren, you should be in Congress, not the school board!!!!

The issue was voted on at the October 23, 2006 school board meeting. Voting "NO" (meaning they felt that competitive bidding WAS necessary)were former school board members Jim Gibbs and Steve McHoes. Voting to just hand all architectural work to Bray Architects were current board members John Whalen, Caren Diedrich, David Stackhouse, and former board members MaryEllen Havel-Lang and Cheryl Batterman.

Hmmm...seeing as the "AYES" represent only THREE current board members, it seems this issue should be raised once again to the full board.

Eschewing common sense in deciding NOT to require competitive bidding for architectural services seems a stretch to any clear thinking individual. It's almost like Sun Prairie is immersed as the central focus of a special edition version of the popular role playing card game "Magic- The Gathering". Perhaps we are under the influence of a magic spell in the form of a "Single Source Vendor" card, which someone has played???

Quick! Someone call the police! The board's common sense has been stolen!

Board members, your policy and procedures are clear:

1. Bidding Approval
The Board shall approve any bids or quotations as required by state or federal law, and all quotations and/or bids greater than $25,000, except as otherwise provided
. Any bid needing Board approval will first go to a Board sub-committee, when practical, for approval and then to the Board, unless it is an emergency purchase.

2. Budget and Purchases
All school district purchases shall conform to the current fiscal year budget. All unbudgeted purchases shall be submitted to the School Board for approval.

3. School Board Oversight
The Finance Committee shall ensure that all district purchases are in compliance with board policy, the proposed or approved budget, and state and federal laws, then forward their recommendations to the School Board. A quarterly report will be given to the School Board on bid items between $10,000 and $24,999.

1. Bids are not required for:
a. Instructional materials such as textbooks, books, tapes, films, workbooks, educational kits, periodicals, computer software and audiovisual materials.

b. Miscellaneous and operational supplies less than $5,000 or replacement parts for existing equipment where the value of the replacement parts are estimated to be less than 50 percent of the total value of the equipment.

c. Prices from single source vendors.

[SP-EYE: Single source vendors, more commonly termed "sole source" vendors is not often defined, since its definition is intuitive. Seeing, however, that we appear to be in need of a definition in policy, let's explain it for the board. A "sole source" vendor is essentially the only vendor in the world who manufactures or markets a particular "widget". Since Bray Architects is certainly not the only architectural firm in the world, architectural services cannot fall under the "single source" exemption. Caren Diedrich's claim that Bray's knowledge of the schools makes them a soul source vendor is moot at best. Since we own the drawings, ANY architect can use existing drawings to re-design anything. Perhaps, however, we COULD always spend some taxpayer dollars and solicit a legal opinion that will defend your approach. ]

3. The District Administrator or his/her designee is authorized to purchase any single item or a quantity of the same item costing more than $5,000 but less than $25,000 upon the solicitation of at least three written bids.

4. Except as provided in sub-section 1, no purchases shall be made for supplies, services, or equipment costing $5,000 or more unless competitive quotations or bids for those items are obtained, provided the purchase is a budgeted item and the purchase is approved by the Board.

So...Mr. Whalen....will you now explain to the community why you voted on awarding architectural contracts in violation of policy?

Oh, and meanwhile we have a number of checks currently being written to Bray Associates for "architectural services rendered" for the pool, the 8/9 Upper Middle schoo, and the 10-12 High School projects. Things that make you go "hhhhmmmmmmm". Of course, the board's position is that since Bray did the original design work (without having to bid), they of course should work on any refinements.