RFP for golf course grills makes it tough for private contractors

The persistence of memory is either an unusual painting by the surreal artist Salvador Dali, with a bunch of melting pocket watches, or the bane of bureaucrats and politicians who hope the citizenry will lose contact with their short-term memory. This second case is highlighted as we once again visit our old friend, the Piñon Grill, or as I like to think of it — Grillgate.

Most will remember the city’s attempt to assume the duties of the private contractor providing food service for the two city-owned golf courses through a series of what can most charitably be referred to as questionable maneuvers. The contract having run its course and up for renewal was suddenly, and if one believes upper city management, surprisingly bid upon by the city’s own food service provider in competition with the private contractor.

The story grew more disconcerting when The Daily Sentinel’s Amy Hamilton discovered altered evaluation sheets regarding the various bids, filled out by city employees and others. The changes on the evaluation sheets did not alter the overall ranking for each bidder, however.

After a great deal of flapping about by city officials after the newspaper’s revelations, practically nothing was done. There did arise some remarks from the city manager concerning newly discovered evidence involving money due from the Piñon Grill as part of its contract.

However, the hoped-for amnesia concerning the situation does not seem to have arrived. While some cockeyed optimists expect the situation to be addressed or explored, I took a different path and read the Request for Proposal from the City of Grand Junction. It outlines the characteristics of the process, the rules concerning who might be involved and the selection criteria for the Piñon Grill contract.

According to the request for proposal, the following guidelines are to be observed: Section 2.6 Conflict of Interest: “No public official and/or City employee shall have interest in any contract resulting from this RFP.” Section 2.11 Ethics: “The Offeror shall not accept or offer gifts or anything of value nor enter into any business arrangement with any employee, official, or agent of the City.” Section 2.16 Independent Contractor: “The Contractor shall be legally considered an Independent Contractor and neither the Contractor nor its employees shall, under any circumstances, be considered servants or agents of the City of Grand Junction.”

All of these criteria for submitting a proposal would seem to exclude employees or subdivisions of the city of Grand Junction. Nevertheless, the city’s food-service entity entered a bid, participated in the process and, after some questionable shenanigans, seemed to be the choice to fulfill a contract that would seem to specifically exclude them.

It would also seem impossible for a subdivision of city government to operate as an independent contractor. If some waiver, change or interpretation was tendered that allowed Two Rivers to participate, that would be of interest by itself. Moreover, this RFP and the one just issued contains language so restrictive and allows decisions to be made so arbitrarily by the city concerning the contractor’s conduct of business, it seems uncertain that anyone could expect a successful venture.

The city reserves the right to specify or approve quantities, portions and prices of all food items and beverages and instructs that “only foods and beverages which are of the highest quality, in the opinion of the city, should be purchased and served by the contractor.” It seems less a business relationship than the hiring of a private chef.

It also includes the requirement that the contractor shall be “held accountable for furnishing full and adequate service, as determined by the city for the full period of time required for any activity ...”

Specifications have been constructed such that the contractor has little or no control over what products he handles or prices he charges and almost everything of importance is subject to the elusive “opinion of the city.”

On an unrelated note, the city is in the process of determining an RFP for ambulance service.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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