Zak finally got his Public Records Act documents from the city.
They only added more documentation as to what I am digging into, based upon reasonable suspicions, and raised more questions so I will be refining my search by asking for more documents yet again.
What I have found so far, as follows:
1) A vendor contracted to the City of Wildomar was authorized to engage the services of a second vendor to provide “umpires and field preparation” services in support of Wildomar’s adult softball leagues.
2) However, contrary to city procedures and protocols, the services of the “second” vendor were admittedly retained by the “contracted vendor” without the benefit of a written contract.
To once again quote the city’s response to my initial request for documents, “As the newly-formed league got underway, the formal contractual agreement process was never completed as the city requires.”
3) And now, according to the latest documents (finally) produced by the City, it further appears that the vendor qualification/bid “process” was conducted by the contracted vendor, by telephone, in some type of informal “survey,” rather than through a written Request for Proposal (“RFP”), in anticipation of written responses, prior to making the vendor selection.
As a result of the above process, it appears that the “second” vendor, a crony of Wildomar City Councilmember Bridgette Moore, was “selected” over other potential vendors to provide the services and who did, in fact, bill for, and receive payments from the City of Wildomar for nearly $7,500 within the past year.
The point of my ongoing investigation is to attempt to confirm that the services paid for by the City of Wildomar were, in fact, completed by the vendor. Unfortunately, the lack of a written contract (with a specific scope of work) will make that investigation, and resulting conclusions, more difficult.
On a political note, and apart from my ongoing inquiry, the unthinking inclusion of this particular vendor on the roster of the Blue Ribbon Committee (“BRC”) calls into question the credibility of the BRC itself, and and the motivation behind the recommendation of a Community Facilities District, inasmuch as one of the BRC members stood to gain future economic benefit from the passage of Measure D, relative to the intended “expansion” of park services and programs.
It is small wonder that the recommendation of the BRC went far beyond a simple “replacement” tax for maintenance of the park system.
A “maintenance-only” assessment could not include the funding of future sports programs and, as result, there would be no funding mechanism to pay for supporting services, such as umpire’s and field preparation.
In some cities, the inclusion of such an interested party to the roster of the BRC would be called a “conflict of interest.”
In Wildomar, it’s considered “networking.”
On a taxation note, according to the documents just received, the following e-mail was received from the vendor:
“The umpires are asking to be paid after the games so I am just going to pay them after each game and then when the time comes, just get reimbursed from the city, if that is okay with you.”
The city’s response follows:
“I will be making monthly payments to everyone and need to have them fill out a W9 so we can issue 1099s at the end of the year. Do any of them end up making enough to do their taxes?…. If (you) want to pay them weekly I can make the check out to (you) each month for them, if that works ? You let me know what the easiest is and I’ll work with that.”
Zak doesn’t think that “Best Practices” for the City’s policies and procedures are found in the phrase, “what the easiest is…”
Based upon the records secured so far, there is no indication that the City of Wildomar did other than comply with the vendor’s original request for direct payments to himself, for later disbursement.
It would be important for the City of Wildomar to confirm that the vendor had properly paid for the services of his various umpires utilized. “Under the table” payments, barring the confirmation of any documentation showing otherwise, would not be appropriate disbursements for taxpayer’s funds.
On a Risk Management note, given the lack of contract documents, the city has been exposed to greater risk.
According to the vendor’s e-mail of May 03, 2010, the following:
“Just wanted to report that week 2 went GREAT. Everyone joking, laughing and having a GREAT time. LOL. It was a close game at the end and the competition got the best of a couple of adults. When I threatened to end the game and give BOTH teams a LOSS they settled down and we moved on.”
Consider, for a moment, if you would, this hypothetical situation. If an umpire hired by this vendor, is struck accidentally by a ball or a bat, or if while trying to break up a fight between “competitors,” is injured, the injured umpire’s attorney would likely claim, in a potential lawsuit, that the umpire was an employee of the City and is, therefore, entitled to have his injuries and economic losses covered under the City’s Workers Compensation policy.
If a Court ruled that the umpire was indeed an employee of the City of Wildomar while umpiring a City of Wildomar-sponsored softball game, the City would have unlimited exposure for any injuries sustained, including compensation for loss of earnings, and all without any of the potential legal defenses usually available to the city, due to the failure to provide Workers Compensation coverage for one of it’s “employees.”
That is why written contracts are executed prior to retention, and which specify the status of the vendor and his employees.
Not only should City Manager review these transactions, he should institute internal measures to prevent a recurrence. Further, he should also conduct an audit of the vendor’s records to confirm that the services paid for were indeed rendered.
The City of Wildomar can, and should, require the vendor to produce that documentation, or reimburse the city for any monies which may have been paid in error.
As always, comments can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments should be made to email@example.com.
This isn’t a game; it’s our government. (Zak Turango, 2010)