It is a clone of this request.
|Submitted||July 12, 2018|
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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.
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.
The County of Sutter has received your above-referenced request for records pursuant to the California Public Records Act, which requested records relating to 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, any and all contract template documents, general policies and procedures for contract administration, and any available process narratives, audit reports, or findings regarding contract administration covering the last two years.
This email shall serve as a response to your Public Records Act Request received July 23, 2018. We read your request to be overly broad, unduly burdensome, and would result in an unreasonable use of public resources. Could you narrow your request? Are there specific contracts or topics you would like us to search for? If not, we will need to discuss the cost associated with staff time to create a software program to extract the requested information from each department and the direct copying costs.
Please note many of the requested documents are publicly available online at: https://www.suttercounty.org/doc/government/bos/bos_home.
Do not hesitate to contact me to discuss the request.
Deborah Micheli, Deputy County Counsel
Office of the Sutter County Counsel
1160 Civic Center Boulevard, Suite C
Yuba City, California 95993
Telephone: (530) 822-4121
Fax: (530) 822-7194
CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This communication and any accompanying document(s) are confidential and privileged. They are intended for the sole use of the addressee. If you receive this transmission in error, you are advised that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance upon the communication is strictly prohibited. Moreover, any such inadvertent disclosure shall not compromise or waive the attorney-client privilege as to this communication or otherwise. If you have received this communication in error, please contact Emily Larsen at her Internet address (firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>), or by telephone at (530) 822-7110. Thank you.
Thank you for your timely reply. I understand this is a large request and certainly do not want to disrupt regular business, so I am pleased to hear that many of the documents are already available online; we will start our research from there.
In lieu of part 1 of my request and to ensure we are downloading complete information from the county website, would it be possible to get a list of agreements or counter-parties?
Regarding part 2: I am looking for documents like standard employee agreements instead of requesting a high number of repetitive documents. Perhaps we could limit part 2 to documents that were actually used in the last year?
Regarding part 3: Here, I am looking for the written policies, procedures, and instructions that get used in Contract Administration, so we can exclude presentations, transcripts, and any audio or video recordings.
Regarding part 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.
Please feel free to email or call (415) 894-0240 if you have questions or need any clarification.
Sutter County continues to read your request as being overly broad, unduly burdensome, and would result in an unreasonable use of public resources.
Please note that some of the records which you seek such as templates may be protected from disclosure pursuant to one or more exemptions applicable under the Public Records Act. Until particular records are identified with specificity, we are unable to determine whether an exemption applies. We reserve the right to raise all applicable exemptions and privileges until such time as you refine your request and identify records with more specificity.
Records from County departments are maintained in multiple databases. As an alternative to searching the public access databases described below, it may be possible for the County to create a software program to extract the requested records once you refine your search and describe the requested records with more specificity. Writing programs to extract records in 23 separate departments and extracting the records is conservatively estimated to take a minimum of 40 hours of staff time at a cost of $125.07 per hour. Direct cost of copying is $0.10 per page. These expenses are the responsibility of the requesting party as provided in California Government Code section 6253.9. The County will not waive these costs.
Upon receipt of your check payable to the County of Sutter in the amount of $5,500, we shall begin processing your request. Any funds not used for programming, extraction, or direct costs will be refunded to you. Costs in excess will be billed and must be paid prior to records delivery.
Do not hesitate to contact me to discuss the request.
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