City Attorney says “no requirement” that RFP be approved by Board of Aldermen — backroom machinations OK?

City Attorney Saundra Nickols tells us in an email a Request for Proposals CAN be issued by City staff without approval of the Board of Aldermen. She maintains that the City’s Purchasing Policies and Procedures Manual does NOT require Mayor and Board of Aldermen approval for solicitations, requests for proposals (RFPs).

We cited p36: “For Purchase Requisitions, Contracts or Agreements over $49,999.99, the solicitation document along with all back-up, shall be submitted to the Purchasing Manager for review.  The item with supporting material shall be placed on a public meeting agenda for approval by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.”

Nickols argues that this means the solicitation document (or RFP) only has to go to the Mayor & Board for approval at the stage a contract is to be signed. She writes:

Saundra Nickols

“As noted in the title of Section H, as well as the first sentence in Section H, this section concerns the authority to approve purchase requisitions, contracts and agreements. This is further supported by the word “item” in the second sentence of the second paragraph. The word “item” refers to the purchase requisition, contract or agreement that is brought to the Board of Aldermen for approval.   Therefore, this section requires that all requisitions, contracts and agreements over $49,999.99 must be submitted to the Board of Aldermen for approval, and that the submittal to the Board of Aldermen must include supporting material.  The supporting material refers to the solicitation document and all other back-up associated with the requisition, contract or agreement.

She concludes: “There is no requirement that a Request for Proposals (RFP) be approved by the Board of Aldermen prior to being issued to the public.”

I’m not convinced.

A second, perhaps clearer provision

The City Attorney does not deal with the provision on page 25 Section IV of the same Manual under the heading ‘Competitive Invitation to Bid (ITB), Request For Proposal (RFP), Request For Qualifications (RFQ)’ which states:
“All purchases for commodities or services that have a cumulative total for the life of the contract of $50,000 or more must be made by formal competitive solicitations. The approval of The Board of Aldermen is required.”

This is perhaps a more clearly worded statement that RFPs require approval by elected officials. There is no mention of leaving approval to the stage when a final contract is proposed to be signed.

In the case of RFP14J the solicitation issued February 19, 2014 was quite different from that described at the last public hearing on the matter the Mayor & Board workshop of July 31, 2013 at which a competition-friendly two-staged procedure was outlined — negotiating control of a site first via purchase or conditional contract-to-buy, followed in a separate RFP by open competition among hotel developers for the right to develop the site with a hotel. But RFP14J as issued was quite different, limiting proposals in effect to two because developers had to bring their own sites in a single stage site & developer package.

Besides aldermen at the end-July workshop said they had many unanswered questions and the HAC chairman and the JLL consultant promised a followup meeting. The promise was broken. There was no open meeting at which the option of a developer-bringing-site one stage procurement was put, and no opportunity for discussion among elected officials of the pros and cons of this versus the two-stage procurement that the consultant recommended and which was described as the proposed procedure in the summer workshop. 2018.03.28

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