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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Police Captain Responds to FOI Story

To the Editor:

With regards to the story “Survey Grades Westport Police ‘F’ on FOI Compliance” (WestportNow, March 19, 2013), we have conducted an investigation as to what may have occurred. It appears that our emergency dispatchers were approached by someone during a busy time asking for an arrest log. Our dispatcher told them to wait until they could clear the emergency calls. The requester did not wait.

Our records system is computerized and an arrest log must be generated from our computer system. It is not a hard copy written log. Our records clerks were not approached and asked for this information. Had our clerks been approached they would have been able to obtain it for the requester. Our clerks and personnel receive FOIA training and we take our responsibility of complying with the law seriously.

As you pointed out in your story “The newspaper’s F grade to Westport came despite frequent distribution –- usually weekly but often several times a week—to local media of a complete list of all arrests, including motor vehicle infractions, with additional details provided in a synopsis of all criminal arrests.” We appreciate you pointing this out in your story. We make every effort to cooperate with the media and the public in providing information as required by FOIA.  Our daily arrest log is available by e-mail to those who request it.

Thank you.

Capt.  John A. Calka
Staff Commander
Westport Police Department

03/20/14 10:17 PM Comments (2) • PermalinkDigg Favicon Email Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon
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Write to all RTM representatives, Bart Shuldman and Michael Calise,… by Kristan Hamlin

You better hurry up and get this approved.  At last… by Bart Shuldman

competitive bidding is always a desirable process.
However it…
by Michael Calise

Clarissa, thanks for posting the link of the RTM debate,  which supports exactly what I have said above, and not the version reported by the Finance Dept in the lead article above. The record link indicates that after McCarty asked for the $308k, I got up and asked: “1. Was there an RFP that was done? Did you send it out for at least three bids? 2. What were those other bids? How did they come in? 3. Is there any warranty for how long this work would last?”

McCarthy then answered: “We went out for an RFP several months ago to see if there were other pool contractors that were interested in bidding on that work and there were not. We had a single bid. We did, however, have another contractor who reviewed the project who gave us very good advice and confirmed the direction we were taking.”

I (Hamlin) then responded: “Two follow ups: With respect to the RFP, itís my understanding from what you just said, that you only received one bid. Iíd like to know how many different companies did you go out to bid this because for the work thatís described based on my own experience, this is exceedingly high ... “

McCarthy once again tried to suggest to the RTM that he had actually put this work out to bid but that no one else responded because no one else wanted the work when he answered: “Your question about the bidding, there was only one response to the RFP. The RFP was put out by the Finance Department as are all requests for proposals and bids from the Town of Westport. They are advertised on the Townís website. They are publically advertised.They go out to all the various trade organizations that pick up Town bids and distribute them widely. There are few companies in the area that want to deal with commercial pools. Itís different that dealing with small residential pools. Most companies are not interested in doing that kind of work. They are not interested in getting called out on Saturday on Fourth of July weekend because we need to have our pool operating ... ”

Clarissa then got up and said: “Iím surprised we only got one and when you said you we only got one because people donít want to get called out on a weekend, was the bid to do just this renovation work or is it some ongoing contracting? If itís just to do the renovation, they should be able to do the timing when they are going to do that. ”   

McCarthy then was vague again in his response to Clarissa Moore, so I (Hamlin)  tried again to get a straight answer: “Do I understand from your answer to Ms. Mooreís question that what you bid out was the service agreement but the actual plastering agreement you made part of that, you did not bid out the actual plastering to anyone other than the contractor who had already won the service agreement. From a governmental ethics perspective, I have a fundamental problem with not bidding out and receiving at least three responses to an RFP. I think thatís a transparent way that our Town government should run. Iíd like to move that we require as an RTM that Parks and Rec. get another two bids before we vote on this.”

Mr. McCarthy then represented that it was the Westport Finance Dept that instructed him to put only the $15k pool cleaning job out to bid (which it was anticipated only CCA would bid on) and then award unilaterally the much larger $308k renovation bid on a sole-sourced basis:  McCarthy represented: “We had a discussion with the Finance Department about the proper way to manage this project; again, because there are two elements to this project. It is not a new construction. It is a renovation. We have a reputable pool contractor under contract with the Town and the advice of the Finance Department was to redo the RFP for the contract for the maintenance of the pools. The successful contractor under contract would then do the renovations of the pools under the contract. That was the advice of the Finance Department and that is how we proceeded. Is it possible to go out to bid for this work? It is certainly possible to go out to bid for this work. Given the circumstances, given the market out there that we had only one bidder for the maintenance of the pool, I donít anticipate that generating much interest. I am not recommending that ... ”

Sometime later in the debate, I clarified again the legal and ethical dilemma by proceeding this way. I said: “It is my understanding from what has been answered tonight that the service maintenance contract has already gone out to bid and it was for $15,000 per year and then they had this renovation and they didnít send that out to bid. They awarded it to the guy who has been doing maintenance. It is my view that sometimes people low bid a service agreement and then if you say the renovation is going to be on a non-bid basis, you are going to make up any saving you gave the Town by having a really high bid. And this is a real high bid. This is governmental ethics 101. We need to have the renovation go out to bid. There has been no bid for it. ” 

Mr Lebowitz still tried to pin down whether the renovation had been awarded on a no-bid basis on advice of the Westport Finance Dept and asked: “Thank you for that clarification. Iíll ask my question of Stuart. Is this correct that the maintenance contract was bid by the Finance Department and it did not include the renovation?”

Mr. McCarthy answered Lebowitz thusly: “Correct.”

Later Stuart McCarthy added :“If the RTM says you want it to be bid, we will bid. We are not recommending that but if thatís what you want, weíll do it.”

David Floyd stated that: “He did have this checked so if we are going to save any money, it is probably in the order of 10 percent.”

In fact, we saved 24% once it went to bid and we could have saved even more if the successful bidder, CCA, had not gotten the unfair advantage described in my earlier post.     

This is why we need an ordinance—because you cannot “waive” a law, but you can list out valid exceptions.  The way this was done was not a “valid exception.” That is why I took the time to draft a proposed ordinance and find co-sponsors.  If you review the above RTM debate, it is clear why the five Petitioners—Hamlin, Karpf, Briggs, Moore and Levy— believe strongly in the need for an ordinance:  so the Finance Dept cannot “waive” the law like they can a policy and cannot do what McCarthy claimed they did—advise town employees to skirt a competitive bidding “policy” by putting out to bid a tiny $15k pool cleaning project and then award without a bid the $308k renovation project.

In my experience, emails to the RTM have a strong influence on how RTMers vote.  If you want clean government and competitive bidding, please email your RTM members and tell them to support a competitive bidding ordinance.  Kristan Hamlin, RTM dist. #4

by Kristan Hamlin


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