A while back I was contacted by one of our industry partners and asked to take a closer look at the Conejo Valley Unified School District’s Thousand Oaks High School Marquee Project. Upon my site visit I found that the project was about two-thirds complete. I began the process of documenting the project’s progress with photos. I also contacted the district and made several Public Records Act requests for documents pertaining to the projects procurement process.
After reviewing the bid/estimates and invoice documents, apparently the Conejo Valley Unified School District decided to act as its own construction manager and negotiate nine multiple prime contracts with contractors to perform the projects scope-of-work. The work included: Demolition, grading, new concrete footings, hardscape, flagpoles, irrigation, brick planter box, boulders, bollards, electrical, painting, landscaping and of course the new electronic Marquee. I also discovered that the district used some of their staff to perform portions of the irrigation work and purchase the trees, shrubs, groundcover, and decorative bark for the contractors to install.
Since the District is subject to the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act, (CUCCAA) they are allowed to either; self-perform, issue purchase orders, or directly negotiate contracts with contractors for projects that do not exceed the Act’s threshold of $60,000. The district decided to sub-contract out the project’s scope-of-work separately, incorrectly believing that since each phase of a sub-contractor’s scope-of-work would be under the $60,000 bid threshold, they could procure it in this manner.
As part of my investigation, I reviewed the District’s May 2022, Measure I Master Project Schedule which showed a budgeted line item for this project estimated at $150,000. The district was obviously aware of the proposed cost of the project and should have formally or informally bid the project. (The project’s final cost was just over $181,000, with $73,000 of that for materials purchased by the district. That alone exceeded the $60,000 threshold).
After I gathered and reviewed all the evidence, I was certain that the School District violated the bidding requirements of the Act. CIFAC submitted the project for a formal hearing and review of the School District’s accounting procedures for this project with the CUCCAA Commissioners. (The Act is overseen by the California State Controller’s Office). At the hearing, and after reviewing CIFAC’s documents, project photos, and allowing the School District an opportunity to explain their actions, the Commissioners unanimously voted to uphold CIFAC’s assertion that the Conejo Valley Unified School District violated the Act’s bidding and procurement policies. “Based upon prior knowledge as indicated in their master project schedule’s budget of $150,000, the District should have bid-out the Thousand Oaks Marquee project”.
Unfortunately, the Commission cannot assess a financial penalty for this violation. Still the District’s staff must share the CUCCAA Commissioners findings and final report with their Board of Education Members and agree to follow the Act’s procurement policies for all future projects.
If you believe an agency is not bidding a public project correctly, please feel free to contact us any time! It is imperative that these agencies are held accountable to state laws so that contractors have an opportunity to bid on a level playing field.