School

School Construction Bid Confusion- Who Is to Blame?

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By Dave Freneaux

There is no doubt that if everyone had it all to do over again, the awarding of the Central School construction bids would have gone very differently.  As a quick recap, MAPP Construction was the apparent low bidder, but The Lemoine Company, who was $50,000 higher, got MAPP's bid thrown out when a judge ruled that a correction on MAPP's bid document was made without a corporate resolution authorizing the change.  Then, at the last minute, MAPP's attorney pointed out that the words on Arkel Anderson's bid conflicted with the numbers, and that the words prevail in such contracts, lowering Arkel's bid by over $750,000 and causing them to become the low bidder by almost $500,000.  The contract has been awarded to Arkel.
 
The question flying around Central in conversation, on the internet and in print is, "Who is to blame?"  There has been some effort to lay the blame at the feet of the School Board's attorney, Sheri Morris.  CentralSpeaks.com is a firm believer in taking issues and questions directly to those involved.  In this case, we went to Central School Superintendent Mike Faulk for comment.  In Mr. Faulk's words, "If there were any questions we had we should have sought legal advice from counsel.  Before the recommendation was brought to the board this step should have been taken and legal counsel reviewed the recommendation and information."  However, the School System did not seek Ms. Morris' advice in this matter.  Clearly Ms. Morris cannot be at fault for this error since she was notasked to be present at the bid opening and was not asked to review the bid documents.
 
Mr. Faulk, in addition to pointing out that legal counsel should have been involved, but was not, further states "Going back over the situation, my staff and I (myself, Ross, Rutter, and Kidwell) should have sat down and carefully reviewed the details of each bid."  In essence, Mr. Faulk accepts that there was an error made, and accepts that it happened on his watch, asserting that he, the school system's Construction Coordinator, accountant, and the architectural firm, PBK, made the error.  There was certainly no intent to allow the oversight and no one had a vested interest in happening.  It happened, end of story.
 
There has also been some discussion of the School Board's level of involvement in this bid process.  No school board members were directly involved in the bid opening, tabulation and review, but the decision to award the contract ultimately rested with the School Board, and each school board member did have the right to review any and all documents prior to voting to award the contract.  The School Board, with a majority of its members being professional educators, did have an ad hoc Building Committee in place which included persons with construction and management experience, but that committee was disolved when its work was completed and the Architect firm and Construction Coordinator were hired.  
 
So, having established that the error was made, what gets done about it?  In most professional environments people speak of "corrective actions" which are designed to avoid making the same mistakes again.  Along these lines, Superintendent Faulk offers the following comments: "This is one of the reasons for bringing a purchasing agent on board.  We need a more comprehensive system of checks and balances in our process so that the board will have the information necessary to make these decisions.  The person we are looking at bringing on board has knowledge of the public bid law, writing specifications, reviewing bids and contracts and making sure all items are in order."
 

4 Comments

  1. Kyle

    August 26, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Thank you, Mr. Faulk for stepping up and clearing this matter up. It takes a true person to accept responsibility for a mistake, and that is what you have done. Your honesty is appreciated. Now, I think some people owe Ms. Morris an apology for accusing her without any basis.

    Thank you, Dave, for once again getting FACTS and publishing them. Thank you for taking the time to go to the people involved rather than just publishing opinions.

  2. Keith Holmes

    August 26, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Dave thanks for making this unmistakeably clear. I hope the President of the School Board will have the courage to publically apologize to Sherri Morris on behalf of the school system for the apparent loose lips of some of our school board members implicating Mrs. Morris to be at fault as published in CCN. I would also hope that this would teach all of us to be more careful with our tongues and pen before we speak and write things that can be hurtful without knowing all the facts.

    I personally think Mrs. Morris has done an outstanding job in representing our school system and city and deserves to recognized.

    Sincerely,

    Keith Holmes

  3. Ray

    August 26, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I don’t think a high school diploma is required to be able to understand that $31,778,000 in numerals is not the same as thirty-one million seven hundred seventy-eight dollars using words. Two of the seven board members now own or once owned construction companies. According to CCN, Mapp on friday appealed the ruling that eliminated Mr. Polito’s bid in favor of Lemoine. The CIRCUS is back in town.

  4. Kyle

    August 27, 2010 at 12:53 am

    I guess this announcement that Ms. Morris was not to blame has left a number of the regular posters on here speechless since they’re not posting any comments on this article. As of last check, only 3 comments on here, but 21 comments under the $665,000 fee article. It would be nice to have the CCN and some of the school board members apologize to Ms. Morris, but doubt that will happen. Just make up stuff about someone, print it, and move on like it never happened with no apology.

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