By Raquel White, Central Regional Compliance Manager. -
Most of us are familiar with the saying, "What is done in the dark will come to light." While searching through City Council agendas, I learned about the Scotts Valley Library Roof Replacement project. The project was not to exceed the amount of $195,000, and the staff report mentioned bids were received earlier but were delayed due to COVID-19.
In early May 2020, City staff requested bidders to refresh their bids to reflect current pricing. The language was concerning, allowing bidders to update their bids could provide an unfair advantage to the potential low bidder.
Due to the City's lack of transparency, I found myself asking these questions; when the project was initially bid, how old were the bids, how was the project advertised, how many proposals were received, and how did the City notify bidders to refresh their bids to reflect current pricing. I quickly launched an investigation and searched the City's website and trade journals for signs of advertisement, but was unable to find any information.
On May 26, 2020, I emailed the Public Works Director my questions and concerns but received no response. I then sent a Public Records Act request, received no response, followed up with a demand letter, and finally received a reply explaining that due to the pandemic, response times are longer, and they are in the process of compiling the requested information.
The responsive documents showed that the project initially bid in 2017 and it appeared that the project was improperly advertised. After expressing my concerns about the process and suggesting that the project be rebid, the City followed suit and rebid the project using formal bidding procedures. The project was advertised on Ebidboard, Dodge Data & Analytics, the Builder's Exchange of Santa Clara, the Central Cal Builders Association, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel on June 20, 27, and July 4, 2020, and awarded to the lowest responsible bidder for $339,092. CIFAC's persistence forced the City to be transparent and compliant by advertising, and competitively rebidding the project using formal bidding procedures, and ultimately awarding to the lowest responsible bidder.
I may never know why the City of Scotts Valley requested bidders to refresh bids that were three years old rather than rebidding the entire project. I do know that even during the COVID-19 pandemic, CIFAC Regional Compliance Managers are continually monitoring agencies to ensure they remain compliant, transparent, and fair. Everything done in the dark will be brought to light.