by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
After doubling its membership, the Procurement Subcommittee of the City’s Ethics Commission recently held its first meeting to discuss some of the procurement issues it had investigated.
Chair Mary Swart welcomed Ethics Commission member Scott Shine to the now two-person subcommittee and the two discussed some of the procurement policies they would like to see examined, including exemptions from competitive bidding and the emergency approval of bills. Both issues were brought before the City’s Ethics Commission after City Council President Richard Clark sponsored Ordinance 2009-467, which proposed he use Dist. 3 Capital Projects Funds to build a batting cage and picnic pavilion at Wingate Park on Penman Road in Jacksonville Beach. The ordinance requested that it be passed on an emergency basis and that competitive bidding be waived because contractor Jaguar Builders of Jax Inc. was in the area working on another project and could offer the City savings because the equipment was already near the site. Council later voted to move the project through the bid process.
“This exemption gives me concern,” said Swart. “It seems like a loophole to me.”
The newest member of the Procurement Subcommittee also wasn’t happy with the leeway that is given in the language of City code.
“I think it’s obvious there’s either a problem with the understanding of the rule,” said Shine, “or someone is deliberately using this ordinance to circumvent the (legislative) system.”
Shine also brought up another way the bidding process is undermined.
“A contract can be bid for a relatively low amount,” said Shine. “Then the contract is amended later on.”
The subcommittee decided to discuss these issues with the entire Ethics Commission at its next meeting. The committee also discussed a new policy that the Procurement Division plans to implement in its bidding process. It plans to add a Solicitation Silence Policy for the division and all independent agencies in regards to the bidding process.
“From the time we advertise a solicitation, no verbal questions will be accepted,” said Robert Wicker, Procurement manager. “All communication must be in writing and it will be reviewed and addressed in writing. It makes it a fair and transparent process, so that everyone has the same information.”
The division is using the “Cone of Silence” model from Miami Dade, Wicker said.
The division is still developing the policy and had no timeline for when it would go into affect.
Shine introduced the idea of the Ethics Commission developing its own Ethics Award at the Commission’s July 27 meeting and he would like to see the Commission voting on the first nominees in November.
“I would like to propose that the Ethics Commission establish an annual ethics award to recognize a member of the community whose work provides an example of superior practices,” said Shine. “Who has labored to advance the culture of ethics in Jacksonville. Who has provided inspiration to others to the ongoing journey of ethical practices.”
The award will be open to any member of the Jacksonville community outside of the Ethics Commission; one nominee will be honored each year and the honoree will be recognized at the Commission’s first meeting of the year in January. A certificate will recognize the accomplishment.
The proposal will be brought to the Commission for further discussion.
Shine plans to make this award different from the City Council’s Robert O. Johnson Good Government award that was first awarded in 2003.
Robert O. Johnson Good Government Award
In 2003, City Council established an annual award in honor of the outgoing Council Auditor, Bob Johnson, who was the first honoree and it was determined that each subsequent year a City employee would be selected to receive this perpetual award. A special commemorative is given to the recipient each year by the outgoing Council president, and their name is added to the permanent award on display in the City Council Offices.
The recipient of the “Robert O. Johnson Good Government Award” personifies the outstanding public service and exemplary reputation for integrity and honesty to the City Council and to the people of Jacksonville that was set as a benchmark by Robert O. Johnson who served as Council Auditor for over 25 years.
2009 — Lin White
2008 — Alice Newman
2007 — Jack Gillrup
2006 — Cheryl Runyon
2005 — Patrick Gaughan
2004 — George Dandelake
2003 — Robert O. Johnson