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Augusta lawyer says city's procurement system ripe for corruption

Procurement ripe for corruption, he writes

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 8:14 PM
Last updated Thursday, April 4, 2013 1:06 AM
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The Augusta lawyer whose 2006 lawsuit prompted a federal court injunction against the use of race- or gender-based criteria in city government contracting says Augusta remains a model for the need to reform municipal procurement.

Robert A. Mullins makes his case in an article, “Corruption in Municipal Procurement: Foreclosing Challenges of Disappointed Bidders in Augusta, Georgia and the Need for Reform,” published in the Winter 2013 Public Contract Law Journal. The publication is a legal journal published by George Washington University Law School and the Public Contract Law section of the American Bar Association.

“A lot of it was motivated by the work that I had previously been involved in with the city,” Mullins said Wednesday. “It recognizes that the judicial system is not necessarily where the change needs to occur.”

The article challenges what Mullins calls “Augusta’s unassailable materiality provision,” implemented in 2007, which allows low bids to be thrown out on the slightest technicality such as a missing date or unsigned form, and the challenges that “disappointed bidders” face in seeking remedies under current laws.

“When you apply their materiality provision, you basically could throw anybody out,” Mullins said. “They will tell you it’s a very objective provision, but it’s not.”

The system means the city often rejects the lowest bidder, even when disqualified on a technicality, costing taxpayer money. It also gives rise to corruption, he said, as vendors seek to influence by other means a system they view as noncompetitive.

“One of the problems with the system here in Augusta, for example, is that for a bidder to actually challenge a wrongful rejection or something of that nature, it takes some time and some money and there are not currently any provisions out there that enable the bidder to recover their legal fees, so often their challenges go by the wayside,” Mullins said.

Augusta didn’t adopt the strict materiality provision until 2007, when the race- and gender-based criteria were rejected because they relied on disparity data that were more than 20 years old.

Estimating that he has represented clients in about 10 suits against Augusta, Mullins doesn’t have any current cases against the city but said perhaps the article, which will be available in law libraries and digital legal services, will make Augusta’s issues clear for all to see.

“I would hope that the article itself will help further the discussion about making Augusta’s procurement system better,” he said.

Augusta general counsel Andrew MacKenzie, who joined city government in 2007, said he hadn’t had a chance to read the 44-page article but expected its conclusions – made by opposing counsel in disputed litigation against the city – to differ from his. Procurement Director Geri Sams did not respond to a request for a comment.

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terobin66
7
Points
terobin66 04/03/13 - 09:04 pm
5
0
Augusta Procurement

A few years ago I tried to notify the mayor 9when Procurement was making baffling decisions that I would help fix it even at nocost if necessary. I never heard back. I live in North Augusta which is extremely near-by and have been a Government Procurement leader for 40+ years and given the authority could fix the problem and level the playing field.

Shortcomment
1163
Points
Shortcomment 04/04/13 - 07:49 am
3
0
Darn if they do

Darn if they don't.

Why not just copy the well documented Federal Contract Bid process and save the Taxpayers from the Legal Sharks?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 04/04/13 - 08:12 am
0
0
Fixed it for ya

Augusta lawyer says city's procurement system rotten with corruption

not the lot, but too many bad apples can easily spoil the whole bunch.

itsanotherday1
45610
Points
itsanotherday1 04/04/13 - 08:24 am
4
0
Some on these boards,

Some on these boards, especially LL, have been saying this for years.

Little Lamb
47281
Points
Little Lamb 04/04/13 - 08:30 am
6
0
Favoritism

Geri Sams wants to award contracts based on subjective factors (such as cronyism, nepotism, kickbacks, minority participation, or whatever). So the city created this "materiality provision" Mullins talks about in his article that gives complete discretion to city officials to award contracts. State law says the low bidder should be used. There was even a court order handed down by Judge Overstreet compelling the city to use the low bidder — but Sams ignores it with impunity.

A court order is no value if it is not enforced (remember Pres. Andrew Jackson's famous quote — "Justice Marshall has made his ruling; now let him enforce it.").

Augusta's procurement policies and procedures should require the low bidder be chosen unless procurement department can show a compelling reason why the low bidder is not competent. Mere technicalities should not count.

Little Lamb
47281
Points
Little Lamb 04/04/13 - 08:34 am
7
0
It's Happening Right Now

The city commission directed Fred (What, me worry?) Russell to work with Paul Simon to enter into a contract with First Tee to set up a joint venture to operate The Patch. There will be no chance for anyone else to participate. It is a done deal. That goes against all principles of open, fair government procurement practices. It's cronyism all the way.

Little Lamb
47281
Points
Little Lamb 04/04/13 - 08:39 am
5
0
Overstreet's Ruling

Here is Sandy Hodson's story about Judge Overstreet's ruling against the city:

Low Bid

It was two years ago. It looks like the city continues to ignore the court order with impunity.

my.voice
4931
Points
my.voice 04/04/13 - 08:40 am
4
0
Needs reform?

Needs reform? NOOOOOOOOO.......Say it aint so! The sad part about the procurement office is they toss out legitimate bids based on minor, minor, minor technicalities as the article says. Most of those "deficiencies" can be corrected and have NO bearing on the bid. And if it cant get corrected, THEN toss the bid. APD uses the baby & the bathwater approach.

Stop making bidding like taking an exam.

Riverman1
87571
Points
Riverman1 04/04/13 - 08:46 am
6
0
Codified Complete Corruption

Isn't this where they use this "committee" to interview bidders? They come before these people regardless of what they have bid, tap dance a little, sing a tune or two, wink, and see if the committee will give them the contract? Codified complete corruption.

itsanotherday1
45610
Points
itsanotherday1 04/04/13 - 08:49 am
2
0
What is the practical fix?

You know darned well the local political leadership won't re-write the rules because it hampers their cronies and family connections.

Is it illegal or just unethical? Are there enforceable, legal recourses for the wronged bidders or taxpayers of ARC?

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 04/04/13 - 08:47 am
0
5
Reminiscent of a literacy
Unpublished

Reminiscent of a literacy test to exercise one's right to vote.

Little Lamb
47281
Points
Little Lamb 04/04/13 - 08:47 am
5
1
WJBF

Hey, did anybody see George Eskola's story on last night's newscast? He interviewed Community Organizer Woody Merry, and then interviewed Commissioner Marion Williams. Williams was sarcastic, disdaining, and condescending. He said he threw his copy of the publication into the trash when he found out who it came from. Here is a link:

George Eskola – Channel 6 News

just an opinion
2735
Points
just an opinion 04/04/13 - 08:55 am
3
0
She has the ultimate protection

5 black commissioners. Untouchable, regardless of performance.

itsanotherday1
45610
Points
itsanotherday1 04/04/13 - 09:07 am
5
0
Maybe that lawyer would

Maybe that lawyer would represent past rejected low bidders in an action against the county for damages.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 04/04/13 - 09:09 am
4
2
“Reminiscent of a literacy
Unpublished

“Reminiscent of a literacy test to exercise one's right to vote.”
palometta108, if there was literacy test to vote now days Obama and the democrats would lose by a land slide.

itsanotherday1
45610
Points
itsanotherday1 04/04/13 - 09:12 am
4
0
Marion on tape.

That had to be the most asinine and ignorant response to a serious issue I've ever heard. The man is just a plain embarrassment to the county and those who elected him should be ashamed.

If they want to vote color, then fine; I'm sure there are well qualified "people of color" that would do very well in positions of political power in ARC. The "cabal" of preachers and other malcontents just won't get behind them.

triscuit
3179
Points
triscuit 04/04/13 - 09:38 am
4
0
Geri Sams will never be fired

Geri Sams will never be fired because she is a black woman. Simple as that. Other than murdering someone down there, she's safe for life. Inept, with a chip on her shoulder...it's a shame. Many, many, fine qualified firms have been denied because of her, because they were not minority owned firms. Sadder still, many fine and qualified firms no longer want to even do business with the city. Hence, shoddy workmanship and service.

dichotomy
34782
Points
dichotomy 04/04/13 - 09:47 am
5
0
I do not understand why the

I do not understand why the taxpayers put up with this Procurement Office and the commissioners that support these policies. There is only one word for contracting officials that insist on maintaining a system whereby they can reject any bid for any reason and steer the contract to whomever they want. The word is CROOKED. This is YOUR money these arrogant, incompetent bureaucrats are wasting.

Whatever the reason, be it racial, kickback, nepotism, cronyism....whatever......it is COSTING the taxpayers lots of money by either paying too much or by getting poor quality.

The Procurement Office should be responsible for making sure the specifications for any contract are right and tight BEFORE soliciting bids and they should be FORCED to accept the low bid unless, based on provable research they can show cause as to why the low bidder is not qualified to do the work or provide the service or has a poor history of satisfactorily completing previous contracts here or elsewhere. It should be the LAW and contracting officials should go to jail if they violate it.

Austin Rhodes
2926
Points
Austin Rhodes 04/04/13 - 10:42 am
3
0
Same song, 467th verse...

LOVE this report, which is a summation of a case the city LOST several years ago. Of course...this case came AFTER not one, but TWO major Grand Jury reports that said the same thing.

Someone needs to tell the city attorney that a case summary like this is not a partisan propaganda piece, it is an explanation of the PRECEDENT set officially in this matter.

By the way...no major changes in policy after this case...and the lady in charge is STILL in charge...laughing at all of us.

This whole thing is reminiscent of a chronic emphysema patient getting the same orders to QUIT SMOKING from the Doctor year after year after year...and then lighting up another cigarette as he walks to the parking lot.

Nothing is more fun for Marion and his ilk than spending other people's money.

americafirst
966
Points
americafirst 04/04/13 - 10:48 am
0
3
LL, you need to get your

LL, you need to get your facts straight. Judge Overstreet's order was not ignored or violated and he rescinded his order and lifted the injunction in Dember of 2011. The City could not simply ignore the Judge's order and proceed.

Sweet son
10812
Points
Sweet son 04/04/13 - 11:18 am
2
0
Some people get the Dept of Justice involved when they feel

that they have been wronged. Why not get them involved in this Woody?

Little Lamb
47281
Points
Little Lamb 04/04/13 - 11:49 am
2
0
Follow-up

Thanks for the follow-up article, AmericaFirst. So the city changed the code to make it easier to reject low bidders. We taxpayers sure got the last laugh on that one.

GnipGnop
12532
Points
GnipGnop 04/04/13 - 02:25 pm
4
0
So which it is?

"I don't think so because a lawyer said that, I mean a lawyer...that's his job. He's probably making money off of Woody Merry or somebody. He's a lawyer, he's doing what a lawyer does. I'm a Commissioner, I'm doing what a Commissioner does," says Williams.

Voting present? Abstaining? Or just leaving the room?

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