CEDAR CITY – Two Cedar City Council members want Wednesday night’s approval for a bid tossed out, alleging the entire process was flawed and needs to be done over – beginning with an investigation.
Councilmen Paul Cozzens and Fred Rowley are demanding a vote taken by the other three council members to contract with Executech for the city’s IT services be nullified and the bidding process start over.
First, however, the two councilmen want an investigation into all communications and activities that went on “behind the scenes” prior to the vote.
Council members Terri Hartley, Ron Adams and Craig Isom voted as the majority to grant the contract for IT services to Executech, a company in northern Utah, rather than continuing doing business with the locally based company Mountain West Office Supply and Computers.
The vote came after a motion made by Rowley, seconded by Cozzens, failed due to lack of support. Their motion sought to maintain the 20-year relationship with Mountain West.
Questions surrounding the council’s majority decision
Questions surrounding the decision to contract with Executech came in during Wednesday’s meeting after City Assistant Attorney Randall McUne disclosed he had allowed three of the four companies in the final running to resubmit their bids – without council’s previous approval or knowledge.
Mountain West was the one company that did not resubmit financial numbers but was granted permission to clarify the scope of the work the company would agree to do. McUne said his decision to reopen the bids only came after Mountain West had been given this opportunity by former City Manager Rick Holman.
Holman gave Mountain West the chance to clarify its scope after the committee overseeing the bidding process rejected its first bid due to lack of detailed information, Cozzens said.
The four-member committee is made up of city employees, including McUne.
“So the city’s process said we can do revised proposals but you have to do it fairly,” McUne said. “We (the committee) looked at it and said, ‘we’re not so sure what we’re doing with this most recent one from Mountain West but if we’re going to open it up, we have to open it up to everybody.'”
Behind the scenes communications
Communication between different parties behind the scenes also came to the forefront Wednesday when McUne admitted he had not contacted all of the council to let them know about the new bids.
Cozzens reproached McUne for failing to notify the entire council via email about his decision to reopen the bids.
“So when exactly were you going to let us know as a council that you were going through this process so we were in the loop on this?” Cozzens asked. “We had to come tonight and make a decision. When exactly were you going to let us know Randall?”
During an interview with Cedar City News, Adams said the City Council had been invited earlier in the day Wednesday to come to the city offices and review the proposals and financial bids, adding it was then they were told about the new bids.
Cozzens and Rowley, however, said the mayor had invited them via email to come in “at their convenience” to review the “original” proposals and bids; but nothing in the communication stated there were new bids. The two men did not go in because, Cozzens said, they believed it was old information they had already discussed.
In another twist of events, Adams said inside information was leaked to Mountain West representatives that helped them clarify their new scope.
“Somebody leaked information or a copy of the other RFPs (requests for proposal) to Mountain West,” Adams said, “because when they redid their scope, it was right on the mark with everything that had been concerns of the committee; and there was no way for them to know that unless someone leaked information or they had a copy of the RFP. They (Mountain West) knew things that only were communicated in the confines of the committee.”
“Shop Local” campaign
The initial contention between council members resulted from Cozzens and Rowley wanting to support the “shop local” campaign.
Both councilmen felt strongly the council had a responsibility to not just give the campaign lip service but to show their support by taking the city’s business to a local company.
In a public Facebook post written the day after Wednesday’s meeting, Cozzens censured the council’s decision saying he was extremely disappointed.
“Apparently ‘shopping local’ is a cute little term we want everyone else to follow but it does not appear to apply to Cedar City Corporation,” Cozzens wrote. “I have used (Mountain West) for my IT service for 20 years and never been disappointed. In my view, it is a sad day in the festival city USA.”
Cozzens said Isom’s role as the executive director of the Southern Utah University Business Resource Center and the Small Business Development Center conflicted with his decision as councilman to take business outside of Cedar City.
“He’s the executive director for small business and he’s voting to take the business outside of the area,” Cozzens said. “There’s something wrong there that he works to help develop small businesses in Cedar City and then votes to take the city’s business to northern Utah.”
Reasons for the City Council’s majority vote
Adams said the three council members that voted against renewing a contract with Mountain West did so for several reasons. He pointed to a recent FBI audit conducted on the city’s computer system, exposing several areas where the city was vulnerable that could have put sensitive information at risk. The audit was completed while Mountain West was responsible for the city’s IT services.
“We failed the audit miserably,” Adams said. “And there were some serious security issues that had not been resolved or taken care of and were very concerning to me that we were in that position.”
Mountain West owner Glenn Sanders, however, told the council during their work meeting on July 6 that part of the issue lied at the feet of the city in its lack of willingness to spend the money needed to get the computers into compliance.
Adams did not agree, saying city administrators had spent money to upgrade servers and other equipment and would have done so again had they known they needed more security.
Rowley’s motion that failed would have given Mountain West six months, time for the company to address the issues that had been raised in audit. He said he believed the other council members would support “shopping local,” if he could find a compromise.
“I would never have made the motion if I had thought for one second the other city council (members) would have voted against shopping local. I had no idea they would do that,” Rowley said. “Had I known they were going to vote against it and had I known about the issues beforehand, I would have stopped the entire process and said, ‘let’s just throw this whole thing out and start over.’”
Cozzens said the entire process does not “pass the smell test” since the city’s own ordinance is built around “shopping local” and Executech’s bid came in nearly $30,000 higher than Mountain West. He wants a do-over.
Former city attorney and now City Manager Paul Bittmenn said he did not believe Cozzens and Rowley could nullify a vote by the council without at least one other member of the council voting to approve the action.
Cozzens and Rowley both said they feel under the circumstances – they hope – the other council members will decide to investigate the issue and restart the bidding process.
Sanders issued a prepared statement Thursday asking for the community to express opinions on this issue but to refrain from hateful comments.
“Mountain West Computers has served Cedar City as the IT support for decades and is deeply disappointed in the decision to move the IT services from a small, locally owned business, to a company in Salt Lake County,” Sanders stated. “That being said we must stand behind our City Council and the legislative process. We recognize that the City Council members are elected officials and ultimately we, as a community, are responsible for who fills that role.”
“We appreciate the support the community and Cedar City Corp have shown us over the years and hope that we can be united as a community through this transition. We encourage all community members to voice their opinions but we hope that never leads to the belittling or hatred of any public servant. We express thanks to City Council members Fred Rowley and Paul Cozzens for their support in this process and for their recognition of the importance to keep these services local. We are grateful for the relationships we have made with city employees, and we feel these will continue because that is the type of community we are.”
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