Tuesday, March 15, 2005

AG's office gives "opinion" on Council's bid-waiving decision

[The state Attorney General's office has rendered its position on the decision by the Oshkosh Common Council to waive bids for the bathroom and concession area down at Riverside Park. Oshkosh City Attorney Warren Kraft followed up by writing a letter to City Manager Richard Wollangk on why he disagreed with that position.

"Eye on Oshkosh" co-host and "Radio Commentary" host Tony Palmeri has submitted the following editorial and it is included here with his permission.]

Three cheers to Geoffrey Matze (whom I do not know and have never met) for requesting an opinion from the attorney general's office on the amphitheatre bid waiver, and three cheers to the assistant attorney general for responding. I hope that Oshkosh News is able to obtain a copy of the assistant attorney general's opinion and will post it on this site.

I find city attorney Kraft's memo to Mr. Wollangk extraordinary in the way it rewrites history in describing the rationale for waiving the bid. In the memo, Mr. Kraft writes: "As the Community Development Director noted in his communications to the Council, the protection of the public's health, safety, and welfare was the first and foremost consideration to recommend a bid waiver."

I do not know what communications Mr. Kraft is referring to, but I do know that the Council in December was provided with a December 9th, 2004 memo from Jackson Kinney to Dick Wollangk that requested the waiver. (see http://www.tonypalmeri.com/jackson1.htm). In that memo, Kinney provided three reasons for the waiver:
1. Given the "sensitive nature" of the site, it is in the city's best interest to have CR Meyer and its subcontractor Terra do the work as they have a "detailed understanding of the site conditions."
2. A need for "standardization and compatibility between the performance facility and other buildings in the phase 1 area."
3. Having CR Meyer do the work would "assist in efforts to open the facility for events on the earliest possible schedule."

Only reason #1 could be interpreted as having anything to do with the public's "health, welfare, and safety" and that is only using the most generous possible interpretation.

I suspect that what happened here is that after Mr. Matze filed his complaint, Mr. Kraft and Mr. Kinney invented a new set of reasons for the waiver and, to his credit, the assistant attorney general did not buy it.

Mr. Kraft concludes in his memo that the assistant attorney general's letter "cannot reverse the Council's approval, not does it halt the construction currently underway." This is true, but it is also true that the Council CAN reverse the Council's approval. I would hope that one of the Councilors who voted for the waiver would read the assistant attorney general's letter and, if they come to the conclusion that his opinion is correct, move to have the Council reconsider the bid waiver.

I also hope that from this point on, the city requests an opinion from the AG's office BEFORE waiving a bid.

- Tony Palmeri