Thursday, September 16, 2010

Doing Things Right vs Doing The Right Thing

Proposals Should Have Been Sought For Professional Services

KINGSTON, NY (September 16, 2010)…The Ulster County Legislature will vote at their September 21, 2010 session to approve a $70,000 contract with O’Conner Davies Muns and Dobbins, LLP (ODMD) negotiated without the benefit of a Request for Proposal (RFP) and in violation of the Legislature’s own Purchasing Policy. “I certainly do not want to impede the Legislature from hiring a consulting firm to assist them in reviewing and analyzing the County Executive’s proposed 2011 budget and provide them with a comprehensive report on its findings. I would have thought, however, that several competitive proposals would serve everyone’s best interest when spending taxpayer dollars,” said Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach.

“Absent of proposal requests or quotes how can the Legislature ensure that public funds are prudently spent,” Auerbach explained to the Budget and Finance Committee. The Committee has taken the position that the proposed contract with ODMD was negotiated under a provision in the Policy entitled Exceptions to Procurement Laws and Policies.

Auerbach explained that based on the procurement policy adopted by the Legislature in compliance with NYS General Municipal Law 104-b, the consulting services to be provided by ODMD: (1) constitute a professional service, (2) which is not subject to negotiation by the Director of Purchasing, and (3) requires the County undergo a Request for Proposals (RFP) process in order to select an appropriate contractor. “Despite instruction by the Purchasing Office of the requirement to procure the service through the RFP process, it was not,” said Auerbach.

“My position is that contracts for professional service must be awarded in full compliance with the County’s Procurement Policy and Guidelines. Given the state of the economy, this is an exception I will make solely in deference to the potential harm to County residents if the Legislature does not have the professional guidance it seeks in evaluating and enacting a County Budget for 2011,” said Auerbach.

In response to the Comptroller’s findings, both the Attorney for the Legislature and the County Attorney’s Office are of the opinion that the Comptroller has no standing with regard to the approval of the contract.

“Not so,” said the Comptroller. “Both the County Charter and Administrative Code impart clear authority and obligation to assure that claims or charges against the County, no matter the form, are lawful. I have made it clear,” said Auerbach, “that my interest in this matter is to protect the use of public funds and I will fulfill that duty without hesitation.”

The firm, O’Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins, LLP is a large consulting and accounting firm with offices in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.


Anonymous said...

It is admirable for the legislature to ask for help in understanding the budget - but these services may have been available for free from qualified individuals and firms as a donation to the Public instead of a firm just making a buck.

Raymond Rich's estate left his property in Esopus and 10 million to Marist College to endow an Institute for Leadership Development with a goal of improved non-profit and governmental leadership. The Community Foundation serving Dutchess, Ulster and Putnam Counties is hosting a Garden Party from 3 to 6pm Sunday September 19th. I encourage people interested or involved with Public service to attend. 845-452-3077,

Anonymous said...

Beyond the issue of violating their own procurement procedures, it seems to me that a basic ability to "review and analyze," and subsequently understand and ratify, a county budget should be so fundamental to a legislature that there should be no need for these services in the first place. I would love for the legislature to make the ODMD report public for all of us to see what kind of analysis we received for our $70K.