O.K. What’s The Tribune Up To This Time?
Uh, so what’s up with the Monday, June 22nd Tribune headline, “Former official says Osos sewer project director has conflict of interest.” Complete with picture of LOWWP director Paavo Ogren and former CSD director, Lisa Schicker. And a general discussion about the official complaint plus documents Schicker sent in to the BOS concerning the creating of the engineering short list for the Los Osos sewer project, among other issues.
All old news. Already been in the headlines. County Counsel Warren Jensen’s already said he’s working on a report in response. Old news. So what’s it doing back on the front page? What’s the Tribune up to? Did they read though the pile of documents Schicker sent along with the complaint? Did it seem to support a level of concern versus a dismissive snort? Is this Tribune story now some kind of prod to County Counsel that somebody may be paying attention?
Well, it’s all very odd, if you ask me. All Caesar’s Wife, and possible illegalities that aren’t really illegal, maybe. (If you violate a law and it isn’t found out until the statute of limitations has passed, have you broken the law? It’s the old tree falling in the forest routine?) And if you did something that was, well, technically “illegal” and are now legally in the clear (statute of limitations) can you claim that you’ve done nothing improper? Or would it be fairer to say, “Well, yeah, we screwed up technically, but it was o.k. since nobody took any money and went to France. The violation was merely a technical time saver and did nothing to violate the spirit of what was supposed to happen anyway.”
Well, to add to the discussion, below is a copy of an email sent by Lisa Schicker to Warren Jensen and BOS for the record, concerning this upcoming report. Published with permission.
Meantime, here’s an idea: Why doesn’t the BOS hire a totally independent “auditor” and have them go over the contract procurement process and bidding selection process and issue a report on whether this was all done correctly and fairly. Wouldn’t that be a better way of restoring confidence that this whole design-build-bid-contract deal was done right?
Your report on the Public Works Contract procurement process and design build process for Los Osos
Date: Mon, 22 Jun 2009 11:41:13 -0700
Good Morning Warren:
I am just checking in with you, I wanted to see how the report is coming along - there seems to be a lot of issues facing the county right now, and I think the conflict of interest/violation of design build/contract procurement process that many of us in Los Osos are concerned about - has far-reaching implications County-wide.
Before you complete your report, I want to make sure that these points of concern are addressed.
Our concerns relate to the promise that Los Osos taxpayers receive a fairly bid project, which includes an unbiased and legal contract procurement process. Evidence and activities thus far have occurred that suggest that there is trouble with these processes. My concerns are that the design build process as described by state law, the contract procurement process and a fair presentation of all options and costs has now been circumvented and tainted by the personal and business relationships of key people directing these efforts - there is history of this in Los Osos and at the County to support these concerns with Los Osos projects and other projects, too.
As part of your report and evaluation of the past facts about Paavo, MWH, Wallace and Lou Carella, I want to know if the current county project team (Paavo Ogren, Lou Carella, et al) have completed conflict of interest statements and if they have provided disclosure of all potential incompatible activities, including the disclosure of their prior business relationships in both public and private roles.
Have the previous business relationships been disclosed prior to putting former business partners (Carella/Carollo and Wallace) directly on a panel, tasked with interviewing, reference checking and short listing engineering teams for a very lucrative county contract - with their own former business associates (MWH?) - and including Paavo Ogren sitting on the appeal panel?
I believe the documentation submitted and your own County records demonstrate that the same people, working both for our county government and at the same engineering firms, have been "feeding" each other work, trading positions and hiring each other now for 10+ years, using the taxpayers' money to do so - in Los Osos (CSD and County), and on the Lopez Lake dam retrofit project, among others......
Of course it is legal to work on projects together with reputable firms, but if there is financial interest and former business relationships, they must be disclosed per the Sherman Act. Because many of these jobs have gone way over bid, increasing 100%, such as Lopez Lake, (when including contract amendments and construction change orders), citizens are rightfully concerned.
Since the County is responsible for using the peoples' money for these contracts that are being made among prior business partners, and there is plenty of evidence to show this, then at least some of the questions that your report needs to answer is,
Have all potential incompatible activities among the former business partners (Paavo Ogren, currently County Public Works Director (formerly of Canon and Wallace firms), Lou Carella, formerly of MWH, RMC and Carollo) and Wallace (previously employed by the County) been previously disclosed - before the contract procurement process was approved or before the design build process was allowed to accept costly change orders? Contract change orders are typically not allowed with design build contracts, that was the advantage of going that way, to guarantee that costs would be capped. These firms are known for amending their work numerous times, so contracts that cost very little up front, end up costing a bundle! (see my files submitted on MWH billing practices)
Is there a conflict of interest due to the relationships among the former business partners (Ogren, MWH, Carella and Wallace)? Have all firms completed conflict of interest and incompatible activities statements? Can the public review these statements?
In light of what we now know, is it legal to allow these former business partners to interview and sit on the appeal panel when interviewing their former business partners, who are competing with others for County Contracts?
How is fair competition assured in this type of environment - how are the taxpayers served best?
These are just some of the issues that concern me, I look forward to reading your report.
Despite what others may think or say about me, it has never been my intention to derail a project, but only to improve it -to deliver the most environmentally preferred, technically sound, affordable project for our town - I stand behind these words with dedicated effort, action and participation in the process for many years now. I hope you understand why these issues I bring before you are so important to reaching this goal.
Thanks very much from Lisa