Public Contracts (Ventura County Board Of Supervisors)

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

It is a clone of this request.

Est. Completion None
Status
Fix Required

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: Ventura County Board Of Supervisors

Good evening,

Our office received your PRA and is working with county departments and agencies to determine a time estimate and deposit cost. We will email you the details soon.

Thank you

From: Dan Rubins

Thank you for your prompt acknowledgement! I do not want to disrupt regular business so I understand if such a request takes some time, please let me know if additional response time is needed. I would be happy to narrow the request as well. 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.

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.

If any of the responsive records are already online through agendas or meeting minutes, please direct me to those and we can easily exclude those documents from this request.

Finally, please feel free to email or call (415) 894-0240 if you have questions or want any clarification.

Thanks,
Dan Rubins

From: Ventura County Board Of Supervisors

Good evening Mr. Rubins:

This email responds to your email submitted to clerkoftheboard@ventura.org requesting under the California Public Records Act ("CPRA") (Gov. Code, ยง 6250 et seq.) dated July 23, 2018, and follow up correspondence of August 2, 2018 regarding the Ventura County Board of Supervisors PRA Office.

I appreciate your attempt to clarify the requests. The issue that remains is that the County of Ventura maintains contracts and related documents across numerous agencies and departments and are not centralized or indexed. Accordingly, in order to respond to your request, extensive time will be required to locate and compile potentially responsive records maintained in each agency/department. Thereafter, additional time will be required to review each record to determine whether it is responsive and, if so, whether the entire record or a portion thereof is protected and exempt from disclosure.
In response to your offer to exclude documents that are already available online through agendas or meetings minutes, please refer to our County of Ventura website (below) that links to meeting agendas that attach contracts presented for approval to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors
https://www.ventura.org/board-of-supervisors/agendas-documents-and-broadcasts/
The majority, if not all types, of contracts presented and used in the County should be represented. Some contracts are not presented to the Board of Supervisors due to limited dollar amount or some supply contracts. We estimate those contracts to number in the range of 950-1050.
Pursuant to Ventura County Ordinance No. 4339, the County may recover the cost of responding to and providing copies of records requested pursuant to the CPRA. Under the Ordinance, there is no cost for the first two hours of retrieval, review and copying time. For the third hour and longer, the charge is the lesser of the hourly cost recovery rate of the employee responding to the request, or $24.00 per hour. A charge per page equal to the current per page copy rate approved by the Board of Supervisors also applies. That rate currently is three cents per page.
At this time, we estimate the cost to be at minimum $24,000, to compile, review and redact contracts and agreements that are not available on the County Board of Supervisors website. Additional time and expense will be required to work across all agencies and departments to locate and compile the remaining categories of records sought, and thereafter review each record to determine whether the record is responsive or exempt from disclosure and redact as needed.

Please advise if you wish for us to compile and review the requested document.

Rosa Gonzalez

Chief Deputy Clerk of the Board
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors

(805) 654-2251 (805) 677-8711

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