By Matthew (Matt) Hilliard, Bay Area Regional Compliance Manager. -
As a Regional Compliance Manager (RCM) for the Construction Industry Force Account Council (CIFAC), I always need to be quick to react to any public agency that might present a situation where they are in direct violation of the California Public Contract Code (PCC).
The Town Council of the Town of Woodside was set to award a contract for a project to paint the exterior of the Town Hall, Independence Hall, and Community Museum, which would cost approximately $69,000 thereby exceeding their bid threshold.
On June 4, 2020, I received the notification from the Town that the agenda was posted. Like all other agenda notifications, I opened the link to see if any new construction projects were noted. The painting project was mentioned in the consent calendar and I quickly looked for a staff report that accompanies the agenda item. The staff report gives in-depth information related to the project. In this case, the Public Works Director mentioned that the Town had solicited bids from several painting contractors for the project. This information to the trained ear means that the competitive bidding process was not followed. The Town of Woodside participates in the California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act, which dictates that any public project their agency wants to perform over $60,000 must be advertised for competitive bids. My next step was to review the information that relates to the agency’s procurement process in its municipal code. I noticed that the Town’s code in regards to the informal and formal bidding procedures bid threshold amounts was incorrectly stated. If the Town had referred to its own incorrect bid thresholds, it might have led them to believe that they could solicit bids without advertising. Lastly, the contractor that the Town wanted to award the contract to was not registered with the Department of Industrial Relations, which is a prerequisite for licensed contractors who want to perform work for California’s public agencies.
Realizing that all these compounded violations would prove to the Town that they were obligated to pull this item from the agenda and advertise this project for bids, I quickly composed an email communication to inform the Town Manager that they had not followed the proper bidding procedure. Mind you, the discovery period and the action of writing the communication to the agency in this investigation all happened within a few hours.
On June 5, 2020, I received a communication from the Public Works Director that the agenda item will be pulled and that the Town will properly bid the project. Fast action was required in order to have the item pulled from the consent agenda because meeting agendas only need to be posted for the public view within 72-hours before the meeting. The Town staff will also correct the informal and formal bid thresholds in their municipal code to reflect the proper amounts.
CIFAC urges our partners, members, and the public, to inform us if you come across a public agency that posts agenda items that may not have been properly bid, and we will rapidly respond to keep them in compliance with the laws.