by Bryan E. Jones, Publisher
In the best interest of the city?
Doing the right thing should be a guiding principle for all of us. Sometimes doing the right thing means UN-doing the wrong thing.
A few weeks ago, the Versailles City Council amended an ordinance regarding competitive bidding. The revised ordinance included the following language: The Board of Aldermen may waive the requirement for bidding and/or due notice if the Board of Aldermen makes a finding that it is in the best interest of the City.
I remember distinctly reacting instantly and very negatively to the wording and doodled an “angry face” and question mark on the paper copy of the ordinance in front of me as I sat, dumbfounded, in the city council meeting.
The above quoted sentence is simply dangerously loose and NOT good public policy. I’m no lawyer, but I am a pretty good journalist and generally alert to things that “smell fishy” or could constitute irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money.
The sentence was open-ended and vaguely worded, in effect giving the aldermen almost unlimited discretion and power.
Does anyone else see the potential problem with being allowed to totally waive the bidding process and requirement of due notice simply by declaring it is “in the best interest of the city?”
The ink wasn’t dry on my “angry face” before I contacted one of the aldermen that night to express my concern. I was told that the ordinance was passed to give the city “an out” if ever there was need for an “emergency repair that must be done asap.”
The way the ordinance read, however, was certainly not limited to an emergency but seemed to me to give too much unchecked influence to the aldermen. It was fraught with potential to cause future issues.
Even giving the benefit of the doubt to, and trusting the ethics and morals of, the sitting aldermen, the idea sets a bad precedent.
I also brought the subject up with the city’s attorney Andrew Hardwick, who, no doubt, understood I was not pleased.
I am proud of our city council. After listening to my concerns, and reevaluating the flawed original ordinance, the city council last Tuesday, June 14, passed a revised ordinance, which is more specific: … an emergency, which requires the immediate purchase of supplies or contractual services … A full explanation of the circumstances of an emergency purchase shall be recorded in the journal of the Board of Aldermen.
After the reading, the lawyer and a couple of aldermen, looked my direction. I nodded my approval. It was a good moment, not only for the role of the press as the Fourth Estate and citizen watchdog, but for our city leaders, who showed wisdom, a bit of humility, and the willingness to truly do something that is in the best interest of the city, and all her citizens.