First, my apologies for taking so long to post this. Â I have quite a stack of projects like this on my desk and am patiently working my way through them. Â In the mean time, I find it very frustrating and curious that the local media refuse to cover this topic. Â Several of the media were in attendance this particular evening, however, it received no mention. Â Nor did Councilman Harper’s follow-up revelation on the 16th of December.
On December 2, 2008, City Purchasing Director Jim Howard and Human Resources Director Allan Candioto appeared before the Fort Wayne City Council, at the Council President’s request, to once again discuss the High Performance Government Network contract. This was on the heels of the public becoming aware of a State Board of Accounts Audit of the City Controller’s Office. The SBOA took issues with several points of contention regarding the HPGN contract. The audit,Â 2007 State Board of Accounts Audit of the City Controller’s Office,Â suggested in part, that the City Council:
We recommend this contract be approved by Common Council before any additional payments to HPG Network are remitted.
– SBOA, page 10
It also cited confusion over what had been paid at the end of 2007 and possible conflicts of interest for city employees who became High Performance Government Network (HPGN) employees in 2008.
At this date and time, the only reason to have brought this topic before Council again, would have been to specifically address and clarify and/or censure as needed the points raised in the SBOA audit. It also seems that some sort of expectations should have been given to both the Administration and Council members so that everyone would be on the same page and get this matter disposed of quickly and efficiently.
Instead, the two aforementioned City officials came to the table and started by frankly stating they had been called there and asked what the Council was, “â€¦interested in knowing about this.” Council President Tom Didier responded that his interest was to know what the City was receiving for its payments.
Mr. Candioto responded that he’d been charged with the responsibility of managing the contract and went on to provide statistics of services provided.
Jim Howard talked about the benefits he’d received in his Purchasing Department with the various purchasing processes involved. At one point, he was interrupted by Councilman Didier who asked if the accomplishments he was citing could have occurred without HPGN’s assistance.
Councilman Tom Smith then asked about the repeated statement made that the HPGN was going to annually save the City between $2 and $3 million. He requested for the actual cuts and savings made as a result of HPGN appear in the various budgets next September, 2009.
Councilwoman Liz Brown pointed out that the cost per hour of the services provided by HPGN was around $160 per hour. She was also wondering if the original agreement had been met with some of the changes made. Mr. Candioto responded that he felt the contractual obligations had been met and that HPGN has been flexible in meeting the defined needs of the City. He also talked about training needs and a program HPGN has put together for 2009. She went on to ask about some specifics of the contract vs what’s been and will be performed by HPGN and also the interplay with Six Sigma.
To this point, almost 20 minutes into the conversation, I was wondering what the point was. Most of what was being discussed was a rehashing from the earlier HPGN appearance before the City Council during the June 17th, 2008 meeting.
Councilman Harper was next to speak and focused on the issues raised by the SBOA audit which were the real reason for bringing this before the Council again. He asked if the City was given billing statements listing the hours provided by the HPGN. The response was that they are and the objective is to get as many hours as possible for the annual $95,000. Howard goes on to state that the amount paid in 2007 was for 2008. Harper countered that it was one of the things directly cited in the SBOA report – that the amount paid in 2007 was not for any visible service provided in 2007. Howard clarified that the amount paid in 2007 was partially a membership fee and went towards service to be provided in 2008.
Harper asked directly: “So it may have changed it’s character from its original payment, it may be characterized differently in the City of Fort Wayne, given the issues raised by the State Board of Accounts?”
Jim Howard: “I don’t know.”
Councilman Harper then reminds Howard of his previous statement to the Council that the original contract could be voided. Harper indicates that the SBOA audit indicated it should have been brought to the Council. Howard responds that the SBOA is flawed. Based on current statute, only contracts over $100,000 in a calendar year must be brought to the City Council.
Councilman Pape then states that it will take a while for the community to accept the HPGN contract. He thinks the more important question is if the City is getting value for its investment. He admonishes the Administration not to look only at the money, but also how it affects services delivered which leads to a better community. Howard responds that the performance matrices to be looked at after the first of the year are about more than money.
Councilman Glynn Hines then agrees with Pape, but said demonstrable savings must also be shown.
Councilwoman Brown then asked what line item in the budget the contract was paid out of. The response from City Controller Pat Roller, is CEDIT dollars. She also asks when a report promised by the HPGN to all members will be released, and the response from Mr. Candioto is, “I don’t know.”
Councilman Didier then starts to conclude the matter when he makes a statement about the need to show value for the money paid, as Councilman Hines had talked about.
Council Harper then talks about the “second prong” of the SBOA audit that the contract had not been brought before the Council, nor made publicly. He further went on to ask about the City’s Executive Order regarding avoidance of Conflict of Interest.
Former City Attorney Tim Manges then approached the table, “not to open a can of worms,” as he put it. He then stated the reason he was speaking was that he had been asked by Controller Roller to respond to the SBOA audit because he had not been involved in the original deal and an outside opinion was being sought. He also helped to draft the Municipal Code of Ethics.
He then goes on to state the audit was based on fundamental errors in fact. He stated that, “There was no serious investigation done by the Auditor. It surprised me, the quality of this section of the report – it was not up to the standards I’m used to seeing from our State Board of Accounts – they just fumbled on the facts.” Harper then asks about Joe Kimmel’s involvement in the original contract. Listen carefully to Manges’ response.
Harper then comments about the transparency part of the whole conflict and the contract not being brought into the light. Manges responds that perhaps the Council needs to re-examine the criteria used when deciding which contracts will be brought before them. (ie. The $100,000 threshold)
Councilman Smith then reminds everyone that when Controller Roller had been before them in June, he had asked at that point for a list of contracts issued by the City for between $50,000 and $100,000 on an on-going basis. His hope is that the new Controller can implement this. It apparently has not been done yet, even though Council asked for it and if memory serves me correctly, they had been told when asked it would not be a problem.
Councilwoman Brown then states, that a can of worms was opened. I’ll let you listen to her words directly. Manges responds that, “Councilwoman Brown, I’m really not here to talk about the policy, and how it was rolled out, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m here to assure each and every one of you that it was done in a legal fashionâ€¦” “Yes, it was legal.” Brown interrupts. Manges continues, “That’s what I’m talking about.”
Councilman Pape points out that if the policy needs to be changed, everyone around the Council table can change that policy.
Councilman Didier then concludes by stating his reasons for bringing it up again.
To download an mp3 file of the entire portion, click here.