Misled, deceived, disheartened, determined – those were just a few of the emotions I felt Thursday morning after being told the city has defaulted on a verbal agreement that Blue Building proposals would be made public immediately following the deadline to submit one.
Just 2-3 weeks ago, city administrator Nolan Ming assured me the proposals would be released to the public. On Thursday, when the release was supposed to happen, I’m rebuffed in my attempts to obtain copies.
Excuse one: we need time to review the proposals and digest the information, says Ming.
OK, I said, why can’t the public have just as much time to review and digest the information? Why can’t we have that information now?
Excuse two: there’s sensitive information in the proposals, says Ming.
OK, I said. Sensitive information means Social Security numbers and the like. Right? I requested just the pertinent information: who submitted the proposal, what the plans were for the property and what they offered financially for the property.
Can’t do it, said Ming.
Excuse three: releasing the information would create an unfair advantage.
The deadline has passed, I said. Those proposals are written and no others can be submitted. That argument is invalid.
Excuse four: state law won’t allow it.
OK, I’d love to see that law. Please sent it to me. I was sent a couple excerpts via email:
(f) Competitive sealed proposals [not competitive sealed bids] shall be opened in a manner that avoids disclosure of contents to competing respondents during the negotiation. The proposals shall be open for public inspection after the intent to award the contract to a particular respondent is announced.
(h) In conducting discussions, the purchasing agent and other municipal personnel may make no disclosure to any respondent of any information derived from proposals submitted by competing respondents.
The email included a link to the MTAS website. I clicked it. That click lead me to this:
“Municipalities may make purchases using competitive sealed proposals rather than competitive sealed bids when the governing body determines that competitive sealed bidding is either not practicable or not advantageous to the municipality. This act places these restrictions and requirements on purchasing through competitive sealed proposals…”
Excuse five came after I asked how an MTAS opinion regarding governments making purchases can be used to sell real property.
Excuse five: other communities are doing it.
I hate to fall back on things my mother said but, “Just because someone else did it doesn’t make it right. If they stepped off a cliff, would you?”
The door to open government keeps slamming shut on me. It’s irritating. I remain determined to shine light on this process, but I’m being stonewalled at every effort.
Standard reporter Lisa Hobbs can be reached at 473-2191.