BY JIM DOOLEY – City purchasing records do not support the Fire Department’s version of how a controversial $175,000 consulting contract was awarded in 2010, a review of those records today showed.

And the dispute over the consultant’s report, which recommended a merger of the Fire and Emergency Services Departments, deepened today when the state Health Department officially opposed its findings.

The consultant job was awarded to an Oregon firm favored by the Fire Department even though another bidder was initially found better qualified for the contract.

The City Ethics Commission is investigating the contract award.

The contract was awarded in mid-2010 to Emergency Services Consultants International (ESCI) of Oregon, a company with indirect ties to Honolulu Fire Department officials.

A three-member panel which judged the qualifications of bidders for the job on June 18, 2010 awarded the most points to a firm called Ralph Anderson and Associates, but then reconsidered the scoring four days later and found ESCI better qualified.

According to Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig, personnel from the city’s purchasing division questioned the validity of the initial scoring results and advised Asst. Fire Chief Thomas Perkins to arrange another review of the bidders.

The panel, made up of Perkins, Patricia Dukes of the Emergency Services Department and Paul Au of he Human Resources Department, met again June 22 and ESCI was judged best qualified the job.

But city purchasing division files contain no record of the June 18 selection panel results and no record of any communications between division personnel and Perkins about the June 18 scores.

The records were produced for Hawaii Reporter pursuant to a state freedom of information request submitted to the purchasing division July 9.

Only score sheets from the June 22 panel meeting were in the file.

When questioned why no records of the June 18 meeting were produced, city spokeswoman Louise Kim McCoy said purchasing personnel never received or generated such records.

Seelig, who earlier this month supplied copies of score sheets from both sessions, said today he did not know why copies of June 18 scores were not in purchasing division files or why there was no record of communications between the division and Perkins.

He said those questions should be directed to purchasing division personnel.

This afternoon, Mayor Peter Carlisle released a letter from Health Department Director Loretta Fuddy that criticized the ESCI report as incomplete.

“It’s impossible to substantiate the claims of financial savings and better service for the people of Hawaii,” Fuddy wrote.

The Health Department financially underwrites ambulance services provided by Honolulu and other counties.

“While the counties can periodically examine how they provide ambulance services in their contracts with the State, any major changes should not be undertaken unilaterally,” Fuddy cautioned.

The authors of the report said the city could save as much as $10 million annually if the two departments were merged.

“We do not believe the consultants met with Oahu hospital personnel or even the Fire Department’s own contracted medical director in the preparation of their report,” Fuddy said in her letter.

“It is our conclusion that HFD has not yet demonstrated the suitability of taking on the EMS medical mission for the City and County of Honolulu. Therefore, it seems premature to support the proposed merger,” said Fuddy.

Carlisle, who has been criticized by mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell for taking a go-slow approach to the proposed merger, saw Fuddy’s letter as a vindication of his stance.

“The letter reinforces my position that this issue must be approached with caution, and protecting public health and safety is still the top priority,” Carlisle said in a news release.

He pointed out that the contract was awarded before he took office and said such awards “must strictly follow procurement laws governing the state and counties.”

Ironically, Caldwell’s name appears in the ESCI contract documents made available by the city to Hawaii Reporter today.

Caldwell was city Managing Director in mid-2010 and approved a transfer of city funds to pay for the ESCI contract.

The approval was ministerial and did not involve the actual contractor selection process.

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