Public Contracts (Office Of The City Manager)

Dan Rubins filed this request with the Office Of The City Manager of Merced, CA.
Status
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 { law }, 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: Office Of The City Manager

Mr. Rubins,

Please accept this initial response from the City for your Public Records Request included below. The City can identify 486 active contracts in the timeframe requested (list attached). Please let me know if you would like the City to produce all contracts from the list or if you would like to select a limited number from the provided list. The production of all 486 contracts will take an extended amount of time and could be upwards of 5000 pages or more. After your response I will assess any fees involved and let you know. Please see responses to your requests below. Thank you.

July 17, 2018

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 { law }, 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.

Please see attached list and clarification request above.

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

Per City Attorney Jolie Houston, the City does not release draft or working documents.

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

Please see attached

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

The City has no documents responsive.

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.

To be determined

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.

The City does not selectively waive fees for Public Records Requests.

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

[cid:image001.jpg@01D007C4.B060E930]

John Tresidder, CMC
Assistant City Clerk
City of Merced | 678 W. 18th Street | Merced, CA 95340
(209) 388-7122 | tresidderj@cityofmerced.org<mailto:tresidderj@cityofmerced.org> | www.cityofmerced.org<http://www.cityofmerced.org/>
Follow us on Twitter: @MercedCityClerk

From: Dan Rubins

Mr. Tresidder,
Thanks for your timely response. Would it be possible to get only the records that have electronic copies in order to reduce the effort and expense? The actual signed documents are not important for our work, we're really just looking the version of the document that was executed.
Regards,
Dan Rubins

From: Office Of The City Manager

Mr. Rubins,

With the original list of 487 identified contracts, we would like to respectfully request you narrow your request to send a limited representation of each type of contract (special services, construction, consulting, mou, etc.) as your request is unduly burdensome on our department. The records are scanned into a database and we estimate it takes approximately 10 minutes per contract to convert to a pdf format, review for any redactions, and email to you. The City does not employ a full time staff member dedicated to extensive Public Records Requests such as yours. Dedicating one hour a day to your request, we estimate it will take 4 to 6 months to complete. Please respond and let me know if a general representation of all contracts would be acceptable or if you prefer to receive all 487 contracts knowing it will take an extended amount of time to produce. Thank you.

[cid:image001.jpg@01D007C4.B060E930]

John Tresidder, CMC
Assistant City Clerk
City of Merced | 678 W. 18th Street | Merced, CA 95340
(209) 388-7122 | tresidderj@cityofmerced.org<mailto:tresidderj@cityofmerced.org> | www.cityofmerced.org<http://www.cityofmerced.org/>
Follow us on Twitter: @MercedCityClerk

From: Office Of The City Manager

Mr. Rubins,

The included link below provides access to all City Council agendas from July 2015. These agendas will contain the contracts in question and can be downloaded electronically at your convenience. Thank you.

https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx

[cid:image001.jpg@01D007C4.B060E930]

John Tresidder, CMC
Assistant City Clerk
City of Merced | 678 W. 18th Street | Merced, CA 95340
(209) 388-7122 | tresidderj@cityofmerced.org<mailto:tresidderj@cityofmerced.org> | www.cityofmerced.org<http://www.cityofmerced.org/>
Follow us on Twitter: @MercedCityClerk

Files

pages

Close