By KEVIN KELLEY
After months of sometimes heated debate, City Council has decided to take a final vote on council President Mike Kilbane’s responsible bidder ordinance.
Under the proposed law, bidders on city contracts would be required to disclose information about criminal convictions, noncompliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the state’s workers compensation law.
The proposed ordinance is set for a third reading and final vote at council’s Sept. 17 meeting, and it now appears to have enough votes to pass.
Officials of the administration of Mayor Eileen Patton have said current procedures and state laws already filter out the unqualified or unscrupulous firms at which the law is targeted. They say the additional paperwork required by the law will increase the cost of future projects.
Kilbane, a vocally pro-labor union ironworker, argued that holding contractors to higher safety and quality standards will ultimately save money.
One of the disagreements that caused the proposal to fail a committee vote in June seemed to be a serendipitously settled by the state government. Gov. John Kasich recently signed a bill that raises the dollar amount of projects requiring competitive bidding from $25,000 to $50,000. The dollar level at which the responsible bidder law would take effect had been in dispute. But at a Monday evening council committee meeting, most members settled on the dollar level set by the state.
Council members, except for Ward 4 Councilman John Hinkel, also reversed course by requiring the disclosures from all bidders, not just the apparent low bidder, as had been suggested by city engineering consultant Michael Mackay. Kilbane’s original proposal required disclosures from all bidders.
Hinkel and Ward 2 Councilman Bill Minek, like the mayor, asked their fellow council members what, if anything, is wrong with the current system of bidding out contracts.
“This is a solution but there’s no problem,” Hinkel said of the proposed law.
Councilwoman at Large Peggy Cleary said nothing was wrong with how the current administration operated, but doesn’t want to “close the barn door after the horse is out.”
Cleary said she wants stronger standards for bidders on the books, and alluded to the recent Cuyahoga County government scandal in arguing for the need for stricter regulations. Minek, who serves on the city’s board of control, which officially awards contracts, took offense at any such comparison. The board of control is made up of the mayor, a council representative (Minek) and members of the mayor’s cabinet, including the engineering consultant. Although council currently authorizes the solicitation of bids and approves all contracts and expenditures greater than $15,000 in value, Kilbane has been critical of the contractor approval process, calling it undemocratic.