Did the Mayor of Erie tip the scales?

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The appearance of bid manipulation deserves careful consideration

Is Erie Mayor Jennifer Carroll in the habit of prioritizing optics over substance and principle? Many in Erie think so, and today they accuse him of tipping the scales in a bidding process.

Recently, she voted to approve an affordable housing development, which sounds positive, but the same development would be around 350 feet from an oil and gas facility.

Last year, YS reported on the Crestone Operator Agreement which research shows Mayor Carroll has taken action to influence the decision of a massive oil and gas site in Erie.

A similar issue has arisen with the City of Erie’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DCI) Advisory Council, which was set up after the historic #BlackLivesMatter walk in Erie last year. . Mayor Carroll was proud to report on his role in establishing the DCI Board of Directors to help bring the voice of diversity to city government. However, the board itself ran into problems and all black women who were members or involved in the board resigned.

Recently, residents raised concerns about the city’s Request for Proposal (RFP) to update the city’s comprehensive plan.

The City of Erie solicited bids through a Request for Proposals dated March 12, 2021, to update the overall plan that sets the direction and guidelines for Erie’s future development. During this process, five offers were received and three were selected for oral presentations with city staff. Each offer was rated by members of the board of directors, the planning committee and a technical advisory committee set up expressly for this purpose.

The winning bid would then be awarded the contract with the city and start working on updating the overall plan.

The oral presentations with the top 3 bids took place on May 18, 2021, and the deadline imposed by municipal staff for scoring was set for May 21, but the deadline was extended to May 23 due to technical issues. Even with that extended deadline, several tally sheets were received on May 24, according to city records.

Mayor Carroll did not complete a full tally sheet and instead provided city staff with a “1-2-3” ranking of the 3 offers that were presented to council. From the scoring list, it appears that city staff were ignoring Mayor Carroll’s ranking in the final vote tally, as the scorecards were complex and couldn’t really boil down to the first, second and third choice selections provided. by Mayor Carroll.

According to documents received via a CORA request, Mayor Carroll and city administrator Malcolm Fleming were notified of the final ranking at 9:10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, after the scores were received and compiled.

At 9:22 a.m. on May 25, Mayor Carroll responded to the email informing him of the results and said he “Looks like if I did the first part of the spreadsheet it would impact the numbers”, adding that “I would like to do it this morning and include the rest of my contributions if it is not too painful “. The legality of this action is in question due to the already flexible timeline, but the fact that there is even a question of legality is cause for concern for the process on Mayor Carroll’s part.

Following this request, at 9:30 a.m. on May 25, Mayor Carroll contacted Trustee Bill Gippe by SMS, informing him of the overall ranking and BoT ranking only of the 3 best deals, and also telling him that she would prefer to go with the BoT’s first choice for the consultant. She sent the same text to Administrator Adam Haid, Administrator Brandon Bell, and Administrator Christiaan Van Woudenberg. Notably, Administrator Gippe had not sent his scores when Mayor Carroll contacted him by text. The selection of board members via SMS also raises the question of why directors Ari Harrison and Sara Loflin were not contacted.

The individual nature of the texts seems clearly intended to circumvent Colorado’s Sunshine Laws (Colorado Revised Statutes 24-6-401 and 24-6-402), which require

“All meetings of a quorum or of three or more members of any local public body,

the smaller of the two, during which any public matter is discussed or during which any

action can be taken are declared public meetings open to the public

Times.”

This definition includes SMS communication, and with the mayor texting multiple council members on a common subject and passing information from one council member to another, this could arguably be interpreted as a violation of these. statutes.

Mayor Carroll continued to text the 4 trustees, with Administrator Haid suggesting they drop staff votes and only include BoT and Planning Commission votes. He then asked, “What if we take away all staff votes?” Did the PC and the BOT line up? “. Mayor Carroll said “Let me do the math”, then followed by a text saying “Almost. I have to send Deb my full leaderboard and Bill his, and I will. The mayor also said she was unaware that city staff or the planning commission would vote as well, and said “I’m just trying to see if we have enough others who agree before pushing it.”

Residents noted that the mayor appears to assume how the results would change once she and Administrator Gippe’s votes were counted, although Administrator Gippe never informed Mayor Carroll of his preference. The closest he got was telling her “Deb loves Houseal. I never sent mine. in response to its original text.

After some back and forth between city staff, Administrator Gippe, and Mayor Carroll, the Mayor and Administrator Gippe scores were sent to city staff and the new totals compiled and sent to Mayor Carroll. and Administrator Fleming.

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After this latest update, the consultant with the highest score moved from Logan Simpson to Design Workshop.

Mayor Carroll continued to express concern that the BoT was not the last and only say in choosing the consultant to update the city’s comprehensive plan, which showed his resistance continues with the publicly declared process, even after submitting his notes and those of the Gippe administrator after the deadline.

On June 4, after the tally spreadsheet was accidentally sent to Houseal Lavigne (one of the consultants bidding on the full plan update) in response to a request to review the scoring results, Houseal Lavigne found that the spreadsheet did not add 5 of the 8 ratings from Technical Advisory Committee members to Houseal Lavigne’s total.

Once this error was corrected, Houseal Lavigne got the highest total score.

The above is a simple summary of the situation. There were several emails from Mayor Carroll expressing their dissatisfaction with the process, and an email from Administrator Sara Loflin which summarized what many Erie residents might also think: the process of selecting a consultant seemed unclear and undefined, with deadlines seemingly at the discretion of city staff, the extremely basic spreadsheet error, and the willingness to disregard the publicly stated process to select the desired winner appear problematic.

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Why is this a problem?

The late scoring of Mayor Carroll and Administrator Gippe who strongly favored the mayor’s preferred choice has the appearance of an irregularity, although the lack of a firm deadline in the process may miss any legal consequences here. . The deadline had already been pushed back twice, so giving the mayor and trustee Gippe a few extra hours to provide the scores would not be unusual or impeded by the process.

If there was coordination between Mayor Carroll and Administrator Gippe specifically to elevate Houseal Lavigne to win the nomination process, this could be seen as “bid-rigging”, but without hard evidence it is. difficult to do.

The lack of a difficult process for selecting the winner, the lack of any definition (which YS could come up with) for the “selection committee” that would make the final decision, and the fact that many directors seemed to ignore the process of selecting the winner. scoring at all seems to suggest that the process was not very well thought out, and problems like this seem inevitable in hindsight.

As Administrator Loflin put it, the “willingness to dump the process” just because the end result was not appreciated by Mayor Carroll is cause for concern.

While no direct link could be found for Mayor Carroll’s zeal to select Houseal Lavigne, it appears this consultant was his preferred choice for the sake of delivering the most sustainable and socially conscious offering.

While this situation on its own doesn’t appear to openly violate legal guides, it does make Mayor Carrol appear to be using his platform to get the results she wants, a complaint that has already been voiced by residents.


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