Public Contracts (Merced County Board Of Supervisors)

Dan Rubins filed this request with the Merced County Board Of Supervisors of Merced, CA.

It is a clone of this request.

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Completed

Communications

From: Dan Rubins

To Whom It May Concern:

I. Background Information

Contract administration is frequently a source of concerning behavior in the public sector. For example:
- In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a company with only two employees (Whitefish Energy) was hired hired by PREPA, Puerto Rico's public utility company, to restore power to the island at a cost of $300M. The contract had audit-proofing clauses and left little recourse for PREPA due to nonperformance. After 8 months, Puerto Rico did not have power fully restored and now Congressional and FBI investigations are pending.
- During an internal audit of the City of San Diego's contracting practices, the contract with office products supplier Staples was found to exceed the City Council's approved $2M annual threshold by a full $1M. Auditors found found insufficient financial controls and produced a further 60 pages of recommendations.
- The US Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) found sustained exceptions for incurred costs audits 28.6% of the time in its 2017 Report to Congress.
- From 2010 to 2013, a Maryland Transit Authority employee allegedly used poor contracting oversight to siphon $6.3M from the state coffers.
- The City of Vallejo, CA was recently the victim of an alleged contracting kickback scheme run by the city's landscape maintenance manager, only uncovered in an FBI investigation. The kickback scheme occurred only a few years after the city was in Chapter 9 bankruptcy because of ballooning contractual obligations.
- In recent years, officials in the southern California cities of Bell, Irwindale, La Puente, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Temple City, and Vernon have been brought up on various public corruption charges.

While the vast majority of public contracting is done with integrity, bad actors and a lack of public knowledge have a disproportionate effect on the fiscal wellbeing and public trust of every level of government.

II. Requested Records

Pursuant to the California Public Records Act, I hereby request the following records:

1. Any and all executed contracts, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), and other equivalent agreements that are currently active, or were active within the last two years, other than standard employee agreements. Please provide a copy of the executed document as well as any addenda, amendments, attachments, exhibits, materials, and schedules.

2. Any and all contract template documents, for example, employee agreements, vendor agreements, master services agreements, nondisclosure agreements, or interagency cooperation contracts.

3. General policies and procedures for contract administration, including training materials and records used to instruct members of your agency in contract administration.

4. Any available process narratives, audit reports, or findings regarding contract administration covering the last two years.

I am happy to discuss any issues or suggestions to make fulfillment more manageable for your office.

III. Fees

If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me in advance of fulfilling the request.

I would also like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public's understanding of how governments manage public money and the obligations to which they are entrusted.

Neither I, nor my company (Legal Robot), has any commercial interest in obtaining the requested information. Rather, we intend to use software to analyze and disseminate the requested information free of charge so that the public may identify patterns of bad behavior that, when eliminated, will benefit governments and the public alike.

We plan to enrich and cross-link the information we receive from multiple jurisdictions, and provide an exploratory interface for the public on the internet, for free. Because we consider this work to be Data Journalism, and we further expect to provide our analysis to other media organizations for additional print and online publication, I ask to be categorized as a representative of the news media. Upon request, I am happy to provide our analysis and any articles we write based on our analysis in advance of publication, though I cannot speak for other media outlets.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 calendar days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Dan Rubins

From: Merced County Board Of Supervisors

Thank you for your Public Records Act request received by Merced County on July 20, 2018. We are in need of additional time to gather and review the information you are seeking. Therefore, pursuant to Government Code sections 6253(c)(1) and (2), this shall serve as written notice that the response time to your request will be necessarily extended by another 14 days in order to enable to search for and assemble the records. We will respond on or before August 13, 2018. Thank you.

Sandra Forte
Legal Assistant, Merced County Counsel
2222 M Street, Room 309
Merced, CA 95340
Tel: (209)385-7564
Fax: (209)726-1337

Confidentiality Notice: This electronic transmission may contain privileged and/or confidential information only for use by the intended recipient(s). Any usage, distribution, copying or disclosure by any other person, other than the intended recipient is strictly prohibited and may be subject to civil action and/or criminal penalties. If you received this transmission in error, please notify sender by reply email or by telephone and delete the transmission.

From: Dan Rubins

Ms. Forte,
Thank you for your timely acknowledgment. I do not want to cause undue burden on your office so I understand if such a request takes some time, please let me know if additional response time is needed.

I understand that this is a large request (especially request #1) and could take some time to fulfill since there are quite a few responsive documents. I would be happy to narrow the request as I want to be sure we do not place undue burden on your office. Here is some clarification that I hope will answer some questions and perhaps limit the scope:

1. We are looking at the legal language of documents, so plans, drawings, price lists or other things without legal terms are not necessary, if that helps narrow the request. Also, if there seem to be categories of highly repetitive documents other than standard employee agreements, please let me know and we can see if an existing template or a significantly limited request will be sufficient for our work. Or, if it is preferable to provide a list of available contracts and a short description, as the City of Ontario, CA has done here: https://www.muckrock.com/foi/ontario-3353/public-contracts-58178/ we can respond with a list of the specific documents we are interested in.

2. With templates, I am looking for documents like standard employee agreements instead of requesting a high volume of repetitive documents. Please feel free to limit part 2 to documents that were actually used in the last 12 months, if that helps.

3. Please feel free to exclude presentations, transcripts, and any audio or video recordings. Here, I am looking for the written policies, procedures, and instructions that get used in Contract Administration.

4. Documents like process narratives, audit reports, and findings are important for this work, but presumably these documents are a small portion of the request.

Thanks,
Dan Rubins

From: Merced County Board Of Supervisors

Thank you for narrowing the scope for the information requested.

Response to No 1: Attached please find copies of Merced County's templates for the following contracts, these templates include the standard legal language for a vast majority of County contracts:

1. Training Agreement
2. County as Service Provider Template
3. County as Lessor Template
4. Contractor Contract Template
5. Contract Amendment Template
6. Consultant Contract Template

In addition, all contracts over $10,000 are available on the Merced County Board of Supervisor's website at http://web2.co.merced.ca.us/boardagenda/

Response to No 2: Please see response to No. 1.

Response to No 3: Attached please find copies of the following policies and procedures:

1. Purchasing Procedures
2. Contract Policies and Procedures

Response to No. 4: The County is not in possession of any responsive documents.

Sandra Forte
Legal Assistant, Merced County Counsel
2222 M Street, Room 309
Merced, CA 95340
Tel--(209) 385-7564 ext. 4470
Fax-(209) 726-1337

Confidentiality Notice: This electronic mail transmission may contain privileged and/or confidential information only for use by the intended recipient(s). Any usage, distribution, copying or disclosure by any other person, other than the intended recipient is strictly prohibited and may be subject to civil action and/or criminal penalties. If you received this transmission in error, please notify the sender by reply email or by telephone and delete the transmission.

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