State To Probe Town’s Improper Bidding Process
Sep 11, 2019 05:31AM
● By Lisa Redmond
Selectman Joseph DiRocco (file photo)
DRACUT – The town could face a massive investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office and an audit by the state Inspector General after the AG’s office determined instances of improper bidding for town projects worth thousands of dollars in violation of the state procurement procedures.
During Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Joseph DiRocco, who raised red flags about the town’s bidding practices during a meeting last month, read a letter from the Attorney General’s Office to Town Manager James Duggan.
The strongly worded letter states that the AG’s Office has reviewed allegations of improper bidding on town projects and found “no record’’ that a list of town projects over $10,000 appeared on the Secretary of State’s Central Register, as required under the state procurement law.
“The AG’s letter is pretty clear, all of Town Hall will be investigated and (any issues) will be kicked to the Inspector General,’’ said Selectman Chairman Jesse Forcier.
Town Council James Hall Sr. explained that the town will be required to provide an explanation for each issue as a foundation for an investigation. Duggan said he is working with town counsel to prepare a response to the attorney general’s letter.
Duggan said the town is being cooperative and transparent with state officials.
According to the state website, under Mass. General Laws Chapter 30B, officials need to seek at least three written quotes for services between $10,000 and $50,000, but a sealed bid process is required for any services of more than $50,000 procurement procedures.
Instead, town projects such as Beaver Brook Trail, the fire station, the old police station, Nashua Road and the demolition of the old Milk Barn, which cost more than $70,000 were put out to bid.
The Central Register gives access to all companies that want to provide sealed bids on projects, rather than a small group of contractors.
DiRocco said the letter noted it was “especially troubling and an explanation is required’’ how one company - RSG Contracting Corp. in Lowell - appears to have been awarded the bulk of the contracts a total of about $151,000.
“Something is going on’’ if one company gets $151,000 in contracts, Forcier said. “What the Hell have we been doing? It’s not just training, it’s far worse than that,’’ he said.
Selectman Tony Archinski said, “We have a systemic problem here. A lot of eyes should have been on these bills. Where were the checks and balances?’’
Duggan responded that he relied on his department heads to follow the proper procedures when issuing contracts.
In response to this problem, Duggan said he has named a procurement and compliance officer, who is undergoing training and in turn will train department heads on the laws. In addition, a manual of policies and procedures is being written, as well as other checks and balances.
Department heads have been asked to review their FY19 and FY20 paperwork to identify and explain all purchase orders of $10,000 or more, he said.
Duggan said he has contacted an outside auditor and has looked into hiring a specialized purchasing agent but would prefer save money and do this inhouse with department heads.
“We are taking the necessary steps to identify areas within departments where we need to do a better job,’’ Duggan said. “We are moving forward.