The consent calendar discussion at Tuesday’s City Council meeting was uncharacteristically long. The subjects moved from the consent items to poor vendor turnouts to larger questions about the city’s bidding process.
“I have a question about the four items that had only one bid,” said Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich. “And I was wondering if maybe we could look at those items and see if maybe we could do better.”
The council pulled five items for discussion – items 3-A, C, D, E, and M – passing the remaining items unanimously.
Mayor Kevin McKeown pulled 3-A (approval of minutes for June 9 &23) in order to have staff come back and add more detail. McKeown made a motion to schedule item 3-A for the next council meeting, which passed unanimously with a 6 to 0 vote. Councilwoman Pam O’Connor was absent.
Item 3-C was for transit bus electronic equipment and service for an amount not to exceed $395,250 over a three-year period; 3-D was a bid for 14 electric Kia Soul vehicles; 3-E was to amend purchase order for one additional Tennant Scrubber-sweeper and modify contract for full service maintenance; 3-M agreement with Briotix, Inc. was for workplace injury prevention services.
“Well I think this is beyond single sourcing,” Himmelrich continued. “We put these items out and received only one bid, and I was particularly struck by the 14 cars that seemed to me to be a fairly fundable item. You wonder why we didn’t receive more bids, and I wonder if our City Manager and our Assistant City Manager think that we can do better on this and whether we should go out and bid again.”
This gave new Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole his first chance to perform his duties in the City’s top job.
“Thank you for raising this issue,” said Cole. “I think that it’s always a concern if we have only a single bid and because we anticipate that we actually go out and ask when that happens to see if we’ve missed something in the bidding process.”
Cole continued, addressing Himmelrich’s questions: “I’ve taken a look at each of these and one of them,” Cole said. “We’ve given you the wrong information…and then there’s one that is slightly different, it’s one that we use a particular type of equipment that is provided by one vender.”
“Two things, however, as a general rule: one is that I think that this is a little bit of a yellow flag that says we ought to be taking a closer look at making sure that we are doing everything that we can to achieve a greater pool of submitters,” Cole continued. “As to if any of these needs to be reviewed, I’d say no, but we’d be happy to go over individually any concern of the councils.”
City staff explained that they had looked into the issue, speaking specifically about item 3-D, regarding the purchase of KIA Soul electric vehicles, and that other companies would lease but were not interested in purchases, which the city wanted.
“We’re looking to buy a relatively focused, which is our electric vehicles, for our fleet. And so not everyone that is in the…fleet business does that…and not every dealer wants to get involved with a public entity,” Cole said, explaining why there was only one bid.
Mayor Pro Tempore Tony Vazquez was the next to raise questions about the bidding process, addressing broader concerns.
“Many vendors feel that there is a lock in the city, and they find it very difficult to break into that lock, especially minority contracts. We need to do a better job [of letting venders] know that these are open bids.”
Councilmwoman Gleam Davis, adding to what Vazquez said, expressed her desire to involve more minority and disabled venders in the bidding process, “the entire range of people that are typically under represented.”
“Why don’t we do this: we’ll bring back an information report in the fall that addresses globally these issues,” Cole said. “I am not sure whether this is a systemic problem or an episodic one, but lets take a systematic look at it.”
After the lengthy discussion for what is usually quick approval of the consent approval, McKeown made a motion to approve the pulled items 3-C, D, E, and M, which was seconded by Councilman Terry O’Day and passed unanimously with a 6 to 0 vote.