It's Official: AG Rules Town Violated Public Bidding Law
Feb 12, 2020 03:01PM
By Lisa Redmond
Selectman Tami Dristiliaris criticizes Selectman Joe DiRocco for not coming forward sooner.
DRACUT – The state Attorney
General’s Office ruled the town violated the public bidding laws by improperly
bidding lucrative town contracts worth thousands of dollars and violated the
prevailing wage law by not filing the proper paperwork.
At Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Town Counsel James Hall Sr. presented the board with a consent decree he brokered between the town and the Attorney General’s Office in which the town admits to the civil violations and agrees to implement procedures to ensure there are no violations in the future.
The Attorney General found “numerous violations” in bidding procedures for town contracts, Hall told the board. “The consent decree agrees that the town will comply with the law,’’ he said.
By agreeing with the decree, the selectmen ensure the town will comply with mandated remedies including: hiring a procurement officer to ensure the bidding laws are followed; train all employees, including department heads and the next town manager, on the public bidding laws; submit quarterly reports on the town’s compliance with the public bidding laws and the prevailing wage law.
The Attorney General’s Office has imposed “extensive’’ reporting requirements on the town until April 2022, which includes spot audits, Hall said.
Dracut will have the “best procurement system in the Commonwealth,’’ Hall noted because the town’s bidding process will be “highly regulated and scrutinized.’’
Hiring a procurement officer is in the works, said Interim Town Manager Ann Vandal. An approved job description will be advertised next week, along with a procurement handbook, she said. Vandal noted the town has created a procurement section on the town website which provides in-depth information about the projects up for bids and the bidders.
Hall described the consent decree as “ending this matter,’’ with no criminal charges and no fines.
Last August, Selectman Joseph DiRocco raised concerns at a selectmen’s meeting about the town’s bidding practices after several local contractors contacted him to complain that some lucrative town contracts weren’t put out to public bid on the state’s central register.
There were about 10 projects that raised red flags, he said. One company, RSG Contracting Corp. of Lowell appears to have been awarded the building of the contracts totaling about $151,000, DiRocco said.
DiRocco explained he initially notified then Town Manager James Duggan about his concerns and assumed the issue was corrected. He went public with his concerns a year later when he learned that Duggan had taken no corrective measures. Duggan abruptly resigned in October as the Attorney General’s Office began its investigation into the matter.
DiRocco suggested that considering the time and money this investigation cost, the selectmen may want to pursue those involved to hold them accountable.
But Selectman Tony Archiniski stressed there is no allegations of intentional wrongdoing or criminal intent, and pursing accountability many involve “many department heads,’’ town staff, the town manager and business owners.
Selectman Tami Dristiliaris rejected the idea of “looking for blame,’’ since no one from the town did anything intentionally wrong.
Selectman Alison Hughes agreed noting that the new bidding procedures will “flush out’’ contractors who don’t want to follow the law.
While suggesting the board should “move forward’’ from this issue, Dristiliaris criticized DiRocco for not telling the board about his concerns for a year.
“You knew about this a year ago,’’ Dristiliaris told DiRocco. Instead of allowing the board to be proactive it ended up being embarrassed, she said.
In the future, “let’s try to work together to help the town,’’ she said.