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New rule may alter little in purchases

By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 21, 2002

In practice, the impact of Sheriff Bob White's new bidding policy might not be very significant. Records obtained by the St. Petersburg Times show that the Sheriff's Office often did not put purchases out to bid under its old policy.

The Times spot-checked 25 expenditures by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office from the time White took office in January 2001 until June 2002, when the new policy took effect. The agency did not get bids or quotes for at least 16 of the purchases, all of which were more than $1,000.

In all but one of those 16 cases, chief financial officer Alan Herring said that bids were not required because of exemptions to the bid requirements. In the other, he said, the Sheriff's Office violated its own policy.

The old procedure, like the new one, allows four exemptions for not putting a purchase out to bid:

The product or service must be bought quickly because of an emergency.

Only one company offers the product or service.

The product is available through an existing contract or a contract by another government agency.

The sheriff can use his discretion and decide not to solicit bids.

Of the 16 purchases with no quotes or bids, Herring said six were single-source providers, five were covered by contracts with other agencies, three were emergencies and one (a uniform purchase) was exempted by the sheriff's discretion.

A $3,600 hubcap contract did not fit under an exemption, Herring said. By not soliciting bids, the agency violated policy.

"As many purchases as we make," Herring said, "some are bound to fall through the cracks."

For the nine other purchases on which the Times requested records, officials had yet to retrieve paperwork from archives.

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