By Emerson Drake
We’ve spoken our concerns before regarding the accuracy and manipulation of information contained in staff reports, but seldom do they let you see it so blatantly. The report is titled Agreement for Directional Boring Contractors. It can be found in its entirety at the link at the bottom of the article.
To provide some very short background, when underground cable reaches its lifespan of approx. 25 years and the injection process they use to extend its usefulness’ warranty expires, it needs to be replaced. This is done by boring holes and replacing the cable.
Why Change Contractors?
MID has been using Applegate Johnson a local company with local employees satisfactorily for years. There was a clause in their contract that allowed Applegate Johnson to request a rate hike. So they requested a hike and MID said no. MID was so upset, despite the fact MID had no other problems with this company other than their rate increase request, and instead of discussing their proposal, MID sent the contract out for re-bidding to six vendors. Only five vendors responded and Daleo Inc of Gilroy was tentatively awarded the contract at the suggestion of nameless MID staff. The T & D Division and the Purchasing Department approved. Assistant General Manager Tom Kimball and General Manager Allen Short both signed off as attesting to the truth of the presentation.
Here’s where it starts to get Hinky
On pages three and four of the report are the actual bids the companies submitted. Out of twenty-eight items Applegate Johnson was the low bidder on twenty-six and most of these by significant margins. So why change vendors and was there a significant savings to be had by going with an out of the area vendor? According to the presentation given to the Board by Denise Ray of the Purchasing Dept and Asst. GM. Tom Kimball, Daleo was the most qualified bidder based on price,experience, and references. But is that true?
Public Comment Period
It appeared the Board was going to vote for approval, but when the Public Comment Period opened a completely new story emerged. Several speakers came and made their points regarding the contract. At least two were from Applegate Johnson and pointed out Daleo’s proposal was not only more expensive than their new one but was more expensive than if MID had used the numbers from the contract increase request they submitted. Now company men speaking well of their business isn’t unusual, but something was different in this case.
The Bid Numbers were Right in Front of Us
Seldom are bids so clear and easy to read. This one obviously was and while this was being discussed I went over them as did others. Twenty-six out of twenty-eight items being in Applegate’s favor is easy to prove or disprove. It was easy to discern there was more than meets the eye going on here. We’ve seen MID staff shuffle, concoct, and just create out of thin air some of the numbers GM Short has needed in the past whenever he’s challenged (see Reed Smith’s analysis of MID’s “extra” water to available for sale to the SFPUC). I held up MID’s own documents and asked the Board members to look for themselves. I specifically addressed Directors Glen Wild and Paul Warda. Mr. Wild, known as a rubberstamp for GM Short and Van Groningen, just looked bored as usual when “official reality” is challenged, but to his credit Director Paul Warda was intrigued by the opposing sides regarding the costs and wanted to get to the bottom of the dispute and requested more time to study the proposed contract.
MID Attorney Tim O’Laughlin Attempts to Obfuscate Details
All staff had to do was provide a breakdown that would support their claim of cost savings but O’Laughlin intervened and said he would prepare the rebuttal. An important thing to understand is, if attorney O’Laughlin writes the staff report he covers it in what he considers his priestly robe of invisibility and will refuse to allow the public to see it (attorney client privilege). But why would the attorney jump in so quickly? The most probable reason is to prevent the public from finding out the reason for the strange and expensive to the ratepayers decision by staff. Which in my opinion is either pique from the requested raise or blatant favoritism towards a bidder by steering the contract in a specific direction possibly for personal satisfaction or gain.
As ratepayers we can’t afford personal pique to enter into MID contract negotiations. And anyone who does so should be summarily dismissed. And since Tom Kimbal and Allen Short SIGNED this document saying the details are accurate and complete to the best of my knowledge, they should be held accountable for any misrepresentations.
Nothing happens at this level of MID without the General Manager’s approval. Nothing.
Here is the pdf. I apologize for the size of the download and include it because it will be taken down by MID shortly despite requests from the public to keep an archive like other public entities do.
Board Agenda Report
Subject: Agreement for Directional Boring Contractors Bids are on page four and five of the report.
Now ask yourself why you haven’t read about this in the Bee.