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Guest Column

Ex-leader wrongly changed bid requirements

By VICKY PHILLIPS
Published November 19, 2006


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Editor's note: The following is an open letter from County Commissioner Vicki Phillips and is being printed at the author's request.

After reading Curtis A. Rich Sr.'s letter to the editor Thursday, I thought it important that the public be advised of the facts surrounding the issues he raised.

Mr. Rich's letter made reference to an agenda item that was before the County Commission at our Oct. 10 meeting. The agenda item covered the awards of bids for the harvesting of aquatic weeds.

The weed harvesting contracts had been put out to bid as required. Among other items, the successful bidder was required to obtain performance and payment bonds before being awarded the contract for harvesting.

While the commissioners considered the awarding of the contracts (Agenda Item 6-B) at the Oct. 10 meeting, the commission was advised that in 2002, then-County Administrator Richard Wesch had not required the apparent low bidder at that time, Citrus Maintenance Inc., to acquire the bonds that had been required in the bid documents. The fact is, Mr. Wesch had no such administrative authority. The removal of the bond requirements could not rightly be done by Mr. Wesch after it had been advertised as being required. Copies of bid documents from 2002 and 2006 indicate that both bids contained the bond requirements, and those required were not "slipped back in," as suggested by Mr. Rich.

There is a question as to whether an existing state statute concerning public works projects requires these bonds to be obtained on harvesting contracts. The county attorney is in the process of obtaining a formal opinion from the Florida attorney general on that matter. Regardless, the bonds were required in our bid documents, whether the state statute is found to also bolster that requirement.

The most recent bid documents for the weed harvesting provided to all interested bidders contained the bond requirements, as in the past. Because Mr. Wesch had in the past without authority not required Citrus Maintenance to provide the bonds, the company failed to secure the bonds thinking it would again be awarded the contracts without the necessity to provide them.

Fortunately for the citizens of Citrus County and the County Commission, Acting County Administrator Thomas Dick rightly followed bid requirements and procedures and required the bonds and recommended awarding the contracts to the bidder meeting the specifications of the bid.

At the Oct. 10 commission meeting, it became evident that Citrus Maintenance in the past (2002) had been shown favoritism by not being required to secure the proper bonding. Is this fair, competitive bidding? Is this really the way Citrus County should conduct business?

Texas Aquatic Harvesting Inc. representatives for the first time at the Oct. 10 commission meeting informed commissioners of the unfair treatment they had received in 2002 when Citrus Maintenance had been awarded the contract while not meeting the bid requirements.

The County Commission and county staffers have a responsibility to ensure that all county business is conducted in a fair and public manner in accordance with all laws and proper procedures.

Neither the board members nor the public were made aware of Mr. Wesch's irresponsible and unauthorized administrative actions until this issue was presented to the board by the competing bidders. This is just one example of why Mr. Wesch is no longer employed as county administrator.

Contrary to Mr. Rich's letter, it is also worthy to note that it was during Mr. Wesch's tenure as county administrator that key personnel left county services, contracts were let for faulty roads, and available property to be purchased for future roadway projects was not purchased.

Editor's note: The following is an open letter from County Commissioner Vicki Phillips and is being printed at the author's request.

After reading Curtis A. Rich, Sr.'s letter to the editor on Nov. 16, I thought it important that the public be advised of the facts surrounding the issues he raised.

Mr. Rich's letter made reference to an agenda item that was before the Board of County Commissioners at our Oct. 10 meeting. The agenda item covered the awards of bids for the harvesting of aquatic weeds.

The weed harvesting contracts had been put out to bid as required. Among other items, the successful bidder was required to obtain performance and payment bonds before being awarded the contract for harvesting.

While the commissioners considered the awarding of the contracts (Agenda Item 6-B) at the Oct. 10 meeting, the BOCC was advised that in 2002 the then-County Administrator, Richard Wesch, had not required the apparent low bidder at that time, Citrus Maintenance, Inc., to acquire the bonds that had been required in the bid documents. The fact is, Mr. Wesch had no such administrative authority. The removal of the bond requirements could not rightly be done by Mr. Wesch after it had been advertised as being required. Copies of bid documents from 2002 and 2006 indicate both bids contained the bond requirements, and those required were not "slipped back in" as suggested by Mr. Rich.

There is a question as to whether an existing state statute concerning public works projects requires these bonds to be obtained on harvesting contracts. The County Attorney is in the process of obtaining a formal opinion from the Florida Attorney General on that matter. Regardless, the bonds were required in our bid documents, whether the state statute is found to also bolster that requirement or not.

The most recent bid documents for the weed harvesting provided to all interested bidders contained the bond requirements as in the past. Because Mr. Wesch had in the past without authority not required Citrus Maintenance, Inc. to provide the bonds, they failed to secure the bonds thinking they would again be awarded the contracts without the necessity to provide them.

Fortunately for the citizens of Citrus County and the County Commission, Acting County Administrator Thomas Dick rightly followed bid requirements and procedures and required the bonds and recommended awarding the contracts to the bidder meeting the specifications of the bid.

At the Oct. 10 BOCC meeting, it became evident that Citrus Maintenance, Inc. in the past (2002) had been shown favoritism by not being required to secure the proper bonding. Is this fair, competitive bidding? Is this really the way Citrus County should conduct business?

Texas Aquatic Harvesting, Inc. representatives for the first time at the Oct. 10 BOCC meeting informed the BOCC of the unfair treatment they had received in 2002 when Citrus Maintenance had been awarded the contract while not meeting the bid requirements.

The County Commission and county staff have a responsibility to insure all county business is conducted in a fair and public manner in accordance with all laws and proper procedures.

Neither the board members nor the public were made aware of Mr. Wesch's irresponsible and unauthorized administrative actions until this issue was presented to the board by the competing bidders. This is just one example of why Mr. Wesch is no longer employed as county administrator.

Contrary to Mr. Rich's letter, it is also worthy to note that it was during Mr. Wesch's tenure as county administrator that key personnel left county services, contracts were let for faulty roads, and available property to be purchased for future roadway projects was not purchased.

[Last modified November 19, 2006, 01:35:41]


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