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Breaking the Law
Patrick Blanchette, Lawrence City Council President

Once again, the buzzword in the city of Lawrence continues to be contracts, contracts, contracts.  How can we save money, balance the budget, and keep things honest?  How about properly bidding contracts?  How about being fair to the citizens of our city and making sure that the taxpayer gets the right bang for the buck!  All contracts in our city need to be properly handled by the trained professionals working in our procurement office and not handled by friends of a friend.

In February I was troubled by the fact that I, as an elected official, had to make an official complaint to the Inspector General’s Office with regards to violations of M.G.L. Chapter 30 B (state bidding laws).  The Inspector General’s Office interprets and enforces this very important law for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Thankfully, the Inspector General’s Office just recently ruled on this complaint, and perhaps now we will follow the law in Lawrence. The two contracts (of many) that I complained about were questionable from the get go. 

The first was a contract with Genesys Corporation of Methuen for payroll services which was done absent an advertised competitive process.  The Inspector’s office concluded that the city violated M.G.L. 30b, as the city did not have an opportunity to realize the potential cost-saving benefits of an open, fair process.  Other vendors were denied an opportunity to submit bids on a “level playing field”, according to the Inspector General’s Office.  Wow!  I knew something was up when I matched campaign finance reports with consultants!

According to the Inspector General’s Office, another  contract that  violated M.G.L. 30B  was with Drill Consulting of Charlestown for the management of the city’s HOME and CDBG program with a competitive process.  This was a beauty!  The contract was for $24,995.00 ($5.00 less than a legal bid requirement for advertisement).  In emails that I obtained (addressed to the administration), the consultant deemed her price as $25,000, but somewhere along the line that figure got changed.  The Inspector General’s Office again concluded that the city did not follow the law during this process.
 Is it time for us to examine more of the contracts in Lawrence? 

The Inspector General’s rules and regulations say con-tracts created in violation of competive bidding statutes are invalid and un-enforceable; therefore, no payments may be made for work performed. I hope the city will demand reimbursement for the $24,995.00 that we got “drilled” for.

 The general public now knows why the Lawrence City Council voted to have more involvement in city contracts.  We were criticized as trying to skirt the charter by doing this, but, please, it’s very dangerous to throw such rocks when your house is made of ALL glass.  This article is meant to show the real story in our city government as I make an on-going commitment to keep the public informed on the issues facing our city.  As a wise ghostwriter once said, “keep your eye on your elected official.”    

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 Prior Columns by Pat Blanchette