BY JIM DOOLEY – The city deviated from state procurement law in its award of a $175,000 Fire Department consulting contract in 2010, said state Chief Procurement Officer Aaron Fujioka.
The contract was awarded to Emergency Services Consultants International, an Oregon company, although another firm was originally ranked better qualified for the job by a three-member panel of evaluators.
Fujioka said he has “never heard of” the contract award procedure followed by the city.
Under procurement laws governing the state and counties, review panels judge the abilities of companies competing for consultant work, scoring bidders against such pre-established criteria as professional training and past performance.
According to Fujioka, the total scores of evaluators are added up and the highest scoring firm qualifies for the contract.
Score sheets released by the Fire Department today show that a company called Ralph Anderson & Associates received the top tally, 105 points, after a review panel considered four companies vying for the work on June 18, 2010.
ESCI received 103 points and the other two bidders were also-rans.
But ESCI ended up with the job, to study the feasibility of merging the city Emergency Services Department into the Fire Department.
Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said city purchasing officials asked the review panel to reconsider their scores because one of the evaluators, Asst. Fire Chief Thomas Perkins, ranked ESCI better qualified (38 points) than Ralph Anderson (35 points) and another, Patricia Dukes of the Department of Emergency Services, gave higher scores to Ralph Anderson (31 to 26). See the first score sheets: Patty Dukes 6-18-10 Selection Form Tommy Perkins 6-18-10 Selection Form
When reviewers with vested interests in the outcome of a contract award disagree with each other, the decision is then left up to the third “neutral” reviewer, Seelig said.
The third evaluator, Paul Au of the Department of Human Resources, gave Ralph Anderson and ESCI identical scores (39 points each). Paul Au – 6-18-10 Selection Form
According to Seelig, personnel at the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, which processes city purchases, then called Perkins and told him that they viewed the evaluation results as a tie.
“They said it could either be redone or the decision could be left up to the Fire Department, which was paying for the contract,” Seelig said.
Fire Department Chief Kenneth Silva has indirect ties to ESCI and had removed himself from the award decision. A new evaluation was the preferred outcome for the department, Seelig said.
So Perkins asked Au to reevaluate his scores when the review panel met again June 22. ESCI came out the winner, outscoring Ralph Anderson 103 to 102. Patty Dukes 6-22-10 Selection Form Tommy Perkins 6-22-10 Selection Form Paul Au – 6-22-10 Selection Form
“I’ve never heard of that (practice),” Fujioka said today.
“The companies are ranked in descending order and the top-ranked company is best-qualified,” he said.
Seelig said he was told the city uses the practice to prevent evaluators from purposely over-scoring the qualities of a favored company or under-scoring those of another agency’s preferred candidate.
So vested-interest evaluators are effectively given one vote each with the neutral evaluator acting as tiebreaker, he said.
But procurement law requires that review panelists act with “impartiality and independence” in carrying out their duties.
Purposely skewing evaluations would violate the law and expose the city to bid protests or lawsuits from losing companies, Seelig acknowledged.
Fujioka said he sees no room in procurement statutes for the procedures described by Seelig.
“The law is quite clear,” he said.
Silva stepped away from the contract award because he is on the board of directors of the International Association of Fire Chiefs,
a non-profit group that is part-owner of the for-profit consulting firm.
He is also a member and director of an affiliated organization, the Western Fire Chiefs Association.
Perkins, who has since retired, was also a member of the two groups, which paid some $13,000 over the past two years for Silva and Perkins to attend Mainland conferences and meetings staged by the associations.
Perkins did not respond to emailed questions from Hawaii Reporter about the consultant contract award.
ESCI’s report was completed more than year ago and said that the city could potentially save as much as $10 million annually if Emergency Services is folded into the Fire Department.
Dr. James Ireland, Emergency Services Department Director, has disputed those findings, arguing that the merger could actually cost an extra $10 million.
The issue has been politicized in this year’s Honolulu mayoral race, with challenger Kirk Caldwell accusing incumbent Mayor Peter Carlisle of delaying a decision on the merger proposal.