MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 21, 2013

Problems invalidate firetruck bids

Legality of solicitation also questioned

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Gooseneck Bend Fire Department officials eager to replace a pumper truck that recently broke down will have to wait a few weeks.

Bids opened a week ago were rejected Monday because five of the seven received failed to meet specifications. A sixth lacked a notarized anti-collusion provision, and the seventh arrived after commissioners closed the bid acceptance period.

Even without those problems, the department likely would have had to republish the bid solicitation notice because the original notice appears to lack legal sufficiency. Notices of bid solicitation have no “force or effect” unless they are posted in newspapers published within the county where the transaction will take place.

In an attempt to “cast a wider net,” Gooseneck Bend firefighter Tom Vecchio said he published the legal notice in a metropolitan newspaper outside the county. Vecchio, an insurance professional, said the decision was made based on concerns about getting “locked in to dealing with just one” vendor.

“You can only shoot this horse in so many different directions,” Vecchio said to county commissioners Monday, when the topic was brought back before the board. “We will reject all bids that were acceptable at the time and rebid the product.”

District 1 Commissioner Gene Wallace questioned the decision to publish the notice in a newspaper outside Muskogee County when the bids were opened a week ago. But it wasn’t until the latter part of the week when it became clearer the notice may not satisfy statutory requirements of publication.

Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore, citing state purchasing laws, initially interpreted those provisions to mean publication could be made in any newspaper that has general circulation within the county. Moore said Monday that interpretation could be argued, but acknowledged “hidden laws” indicate the publication of bid solicitation notices must be accomplished in a newspaper published within the county.

“There seems to be some conflicting information in the statutes: The purchasing act says one thing and the other says another,” Moore said. “You could argue that because you have one statute that is more specific the other may or may not be (applicable) because it is more general.”

Moore said because commissioners rejected all the previous bids based upon Vecchio’s recommendation, the issue became moot. Based upon a closer reading of the statutes, Moore said he would advise that any future bid solicitation notices be published in a Muskogee County newspaper that meets the legal definition set out by state statutes.

“Whatever county you are in, you should always publish it in the county where you live,” Moore said.

Wallace, who commended Vecchio for his efforts, said new bids should be back before commissioners in about three weeks.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.