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Your Opinion: City's "no-bid' contract with chamber questioned

Your Opinion: City's "no-bid' contract with chamber questioned

March 5th, 2012 by Tim Stallman, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

I want to shine a flashlight of public investigation inside the black box of "no-bid" contracts the City Council has inked with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce (JCACC) for what the contract terms call "economic development services."

Just what is inside that black box? The public has a right to know. The contract I refer to was created May 1, 2008, by ordinance 14348 and ran through 2011. The new 2012 contract essentially continues the old contract and will cost up to $1,000,000 over five years. Yes, one million bucks.

Well-written contracts specify deliverable items, quantities, timetables and outcomes. This contract has none of those. It merely lists possible activities that could be carried out in a "scope of services" section.

But the most curious item missing in this contract is a system for reviewing whether or not the items listed in the "scope of services" have actually been accomplished. There is a strong provision for audits and reports on "progress made in economic development" but payment is not actually tied to actual performance. The new 2012 contract has even fewer safeguards than the old 2008 contract, it merely requires quarterly reports. Reports on what?

The law gives elected officials a lot of leeway in the performance of their duties, but it does not allow them to give away our money to private organizations without requiring a reasonable work product or specific performance in return. No-bid contracts have a long history of devolving into "sweetheart" deals that do not serve taxpayers. Until someone blows the whistle, they just go on and on satisfying the needs of a small group of insiders.

The sunlight of public scrutiny would have never allowed this contract to be written in the unenforceable way it was. This contract never saw that sunlight. Is the relationship between the City Council and the JCACC too cozy?

Was the $1,000,000 that will be spent on this contract really a gift to the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce? What will we get for our money? The laundry needs a good public airing.

Next I will try to find out what is in the quarterly reports specified in the 2008 contract. Then I will report back to you.