Author Archives: Michelle Pickens

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CIFAC’s Watchful Eye Leads to County bidding $9.9 million in Pavement Overlay Rehabilitation Project

Category:Around The State News,Uncategorized

Recently, CIFAC was approached by an industry partner regarding Madera County crews self-performing work on multiple road projects throughout the County. As a participating member of the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act, the County may self-perform public works projects of $60,000 or less by force account, negotiated contract, or purchase order. The County Board of Supervisors or County Road Commissioner acting on its authority can publicly declare its intention to use force account for new road construction and road reconstruction during a fiscal year. However, there is one provision; the total value of the work performed cannot exceed 30 percent of the value performed by force account (except maintenance) the prior fiscal year. This dollar value is commonly referred to as a “Road Commissioner cap” and CIFAC's Regional Compliance Managers monitor the Road Commissioner projects to determine if an agency has exceeded that amount.

Well-paved roads and highways is important to ensure driver safety. There is a sense of relief knowing that my car's front end is less likely to be knocked out of alignment or that I am less likely to experience a flat tire. Unfortunately, the quality of work observed on these roads was substandard. I conducted three investigations and determined that the County did not exceed the force account limit or the road commissioner's cap. To avoid further bumps in the road, CIFAC contacted County staff with their concerns and requested the County competitively bid future roadwork. Our goal was to increase job opportunities and ensure work other than simple road maintenance and repair work, are completed by licensed and insured contractors with the expertise to perform and produce quality work.

In March 2021, Madera County advertised the 2020 Countywide Pavement Rehabilitation and Overlay project valued at $9.9 million. An industry partner called to thank CIFAC for its involvement and assistance in this accomplishment. Although CIFAC uncovered no violations, we genuinely believe that the County was mindful of CIFAC's presence and persistence. Our watchful eye encourages agencies to comply with the law, review its methods, and competitively bid projects. This project will result in over 10,000 work hours for the construction industry. A step in the right direction and another way CIFAC is increasing job opportunities. Contact CIFAC if you see work being performed by force account or have questions about any project. When in doubt, seek us out!


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There is No Room for Personal Bias in Public Works Awards

Category:Around The State News

By Patricia (Patti) Rascon, Southern Regional Compliance Manager

It wasn't a plant virus invading flora and fauna, but personal bias resulting in two failed attempts to award an annual tree maintenance service contract for one Orange County city.

Twice the City invited bids for the annual tree maintenance service contract based on a best value scoring matrix. Each time the same contractor scored as the low bidder. City Staff recommended awarding the project to the responsible bidder, and City Council rejected the recommendation.  Yes, I was scratching my head too! Why was the low bidder overlooked?

In the first round of bidding, the City Council raised concerns about the looming budget due to the Covid-19 virus and was apprehensive about the contract's proposed three-year term. In the end, City Council directed staff to bring the item back for consideration but with a five-year term. The second round of bidding gave way to personal bias. Select Council Members were more concerned with the philanthropic deeds of the second low bidder and their apparent home-town advantage. The bias virus was genuine and had no place in the award process! The Public Works Director, City Manager, and the City Attorney cautioned the City Council with the possibility of significant legal exposer should they not award to the lowest responsible bidder. City Council reached a short-term compromise. The low bidder would receive a 25 K purchase order for emergency work should the need arise.

Was the third time a charm? CIFAC and other interested parties took a proactive approach to cultivate the landscape and rid it of the virus. The matter came before the City Council for the third time, and the same low bidder from previous attempts was finally awarded a five-year contract for an amount not to exceed 1.3 Million.

There is no room for personal bias in awarding public works contracts. City Council and staff have a fiduciary duty to make sound decisions in the procurement process. It is commendable that a contractor is willing to give back to a community in which they are doing business, but it is not the basis for choosing that contractor. In this scenario, the scoring matrix won out, not home-town advantage or good deeds.

CIFAC will remain steadfast to ensure that no virus will poison the bidding process and keep the playing field level for the industry to continue to grow.


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Sleight of Hand in Contract Award Makes The Level Playing Field Disappear!

Category:Around The State News

By Patricia (Patti) Rascon, Southern Regional Compliance Manager

You know the game, three inverted cups or nutshells are moved about, and contestants must spot the one with a pea or other object underneath. The players in this game are the City of Coachella, CIFAC, and not one but two contactors that we will call Contractor Inc. and Contractor LLC.

 

Round one started when Contractor Inc. submitted a bid to the City of Coachella on February 8, 2021, for a Landscape Maintenance Services and Lighting Maintenance Districts agreement with a canceled California State Contractors License (CSLB) as of February 1, 2021.

 

Round two, the City awarded the bid to Contractor Inc. on February 24, 2021! Sleight of hand, let the games begin!

 

Initially, Rascon advised the City' Public Works Director that Contractor Inc.'s CSLB License was invalid and unable to contract. She suggested that the City should award to the next lowest bidder or re-advertise the project. The Public Works Director swiftly responded with a copy of a replacement CSLB License belonging to Contractor LLC. Is the game over yet? NOTA CHANCE.

 

The CSLB License swap opened a Pandora's Box to multiple issues with the proposal documents. Closer scrutiny uncovered that Contractor LLC signed the Parties and Dates Sheet; however, the Surety Affirmation listed Contractor Inc. The Surety Bond reflected Contractor LLC, and the Certificate of Liability Insurance named the insured as Contractor LLC. Still, the Certificate Holder was the City of La Quinta when it should have been issued to the City of Coachella. ALL documents must be consistent with one license. Whoa, stop the game!

 

In a letter to the City leadership, Rascon outlined the discrepancies CIFAC uncovered concerning the two different contractors. She advised that all work currently in progress cease immediately; that the City review the documents and deem the contractor non-responsible and non-responsive, immediately rescinding the contract and re-bid the project.

 

Game over! CIFAC wins this high-stakes game. The City has agreed to review all the documents, and the project will be re-bid shortly. This is a win for the industry as the low bid came in at $516,000 with a 15% contingency for a two-year term, which equates to over one million dollars.

 

CIFAC remains vigilant in reminding public agencies of their duty to protect the tax payer's money. In this scenario, the Public Works Director's responsibility was to scrutinize all of the contract documents judiciously. CIFAC stays true to our Mission to increase and preserve public works opportunities for the construction industry. We don't play games, and we "call-out" acts of sleight of hand and fraud.


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Persistence Pays Off-CIFAC forces Agencies to Bid Projects

Category:Around The State News,Uncategorized

By Tony Morelli, CIFAC Southwestern Regional Compliance Manager

 

As a result of consistently monitoring Public Agencies and their actions, CIFAC’s Regional Compliance Managers are achieving their objectives through determination and insistence that Public Agencies comply with California’s legal requirements when advertising, bidding or awarding public projects.

Two recent examples highlight CIFAC’s success…

The Ojai Unified School District was recently seeking Board approval to award an $81,300 contract for two large shade structures for use at their Meiners Oaks Elementary School.  With no other supporting documentation on how the project was procured, CIFAC contacted the District for more information.

The District's Bond Manager responded, indicating that the District was utilizing a piggy-back contract from the Fullerton Joint Union High School District and since the installation portion was less than $15,000, they did not advertise the installation work for bid.

CIFAC advised the District that, unfortunately they could not procure the project in this manner. The use of piggy-back contracts, per the language in the Public Contract Code, section 20118, is meant for the purchase of personal property items and does not mention, nor include the construction or installation of any items that are permanently affixed to real property.

Additionally, we provided the District with a copy of the California Attorney Generals 2006 opinion and conclusion [89 Ops. Cal Atty Gen. 05-405] supporting CIFAC’s position.  The School District is also subject to the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act (CUCCAA) procurement requirements, so we provided them with a copy of the CUCCAA Commission's 2020 written opinion concerning piggy-back contracts, which aligned with the State Attorney Generals conclusion.

After evaluating CIFAC’s position and the supporting documents, the District agreed to remove the item from their Board agenda and properly bid-out the project as required.

The City of Paramount was intending to award a contract for their $400,000 Progress Park Plaza Interior Improvements project.  The projects scope-of-work included the installation of an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant unisex bathroom, a new storage area with room for a washer and dryer, new lighting fixtures, ceiling tiles, carpet, storefront windows and an updated front entrance.

While looking closer at the details, CIFAC determined that the contractor the City was about to award to was not currently registered with the Department of Industrial Relations to perform public works construction.

CIFAC contacted the City and advised them that per Labor Code section 1771.1 (a) and 1725.5, the City could neither accept nor consider bids from unregistered contractors and would need to either award to the second lowest bidder or re-bid the project.  The City thanked CIFAC for bringing this to their attention and indicated that they would be re-bidding the project to ensure compliance.