By Kevin Kelley
For the first time in her 13 years as mayor, Eileen Patton has vetoed an ordinance passed by City Council.
On Monday, Patton wrote council members informing them she vetoed the so-called responsible bidder ordinance that requires numerous disclosures from firms making competitive bids on city projects.
Following months of at times contentious discussion in committee meetings, council passed the ordinance by a
5-2 vote Sept. 17.
Patton told West Life her veto is not symbolic. Because the city charter states that a majority plus one – or five votes – is needed to override a mayor’s veto, it would appear the mayor is hoping at least one of the “yes” votes will switch sides when the vote to override is taken at Monday’s council meeting.
In her letter to council, the mayor outlined five objections to the ordinance:
• It’s unnecessary, as the city has used the same bidding procedure without issues since 1969.
• It adds layers of requirements to potential bidders without evidence of needing them.
• The city will potentially incur additional costs due to the ordinance, either through a reduction in the pool of bidders on projects or from legal disputes that could arise from implementation of the law.
• Current bidder requirements, along with state and federal laws, are sufficient to properly evaluate the qualifications of all bidders.
• It is predicated on introductory statements that are “simply untrue and inapplicable in this community.”
Regarding the last objection, at the Sept. 17 meeting, Patton made a point of denouncing an introductory paragraph stating that “unscrupulous contractors” cut corners on wages, craftsmanship and worker safety in a less regulated market. She called the wording “insulting.”
Yesterday, council President Mike Kilbane stood by the wording, which he said was an accurate description of what’s happened to American workers in recent decades. Kilbane introduced the ordinance and pushed it through the legislative process.
“I think it’s just stating the truth,” Kilbane told West Life, adding that he essentially copied the wording from another city’s ordinance on bidder regulations.
Patton and officials from her administration have consistently said the current system of selecting bids works well.
“Fairview Park has always been a city that welcomes as many bids as possible, as competition is good,” the mayor told West Life. “The process is firmly in place to affirm that the awarded bidder is a responsible business owner with quality standards and safe products.”
Before the Sept. 17 vote, several residents spoke against the ordinance at the meeting’s public session. They argued that the ordinance favors union contractors over nonunion ones, and larger firms over smaller, local ones.
Kilbane, a member of Structural Ironworkers Local 17 for two decades, rejected the assertion that the ordinance gives an advantage to unions.
“It’s not designed to help unions, but I hope it will level the playing field between workers and management,” the council president told West Life.
The ordinance lists 16 specific disclosures required from potential bidders for municipal projects and calls on city officials to evaluate the disclosed information in determining whether a contractor is responsible and qualified. The required disclosures call for information, generally from the previous five years, on matters such as noncompliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), final determination of discrimination charges and noncompliance with the state’s workers’ compensation law.