COMMISSIONER CALLS COPIER-CONTRACT LEGIT?
COMMISSIONER CALLS COPIER-CONTRACT LEGIT?
2006-01-25 at 10:48:00 am #14038
Bruce calls copier-contract dealings legit
El Paso County Commissioner Douglas Bruce denied helping a Colorado Springs businessman and political ally get part of a copier contract awarded Thursday.
County commissioners unanimously awarded contracts to Floridabased Danka Office Imaging Co. and Bircham Office Products Inc. of Colorado Springs for countywide copier rental services.
The award, delayed several months amid allegations that Bruce had compromised the bid process, followed an angry exchange and a recess to let tempers cool.
Six bidders, including Danka and Bircham, submitted proposals for copier rentals in September. The county’s procurement department originally recommended Danka and placed the item on the Oct. 31 agenda
Shortly before the Oct. 31 meeting, Bruce received the agenda naming Danka as the winning bidder and called Ed Bircham to suggest he attend the meeting to protest the decision, according to a complaint filed by Danka’s lawyers. Danka’s complaint, filed with the county
procurement department, has since been withdrawn.
Bruce said he called Bircham because, after looking over the bids, he believed the county was going to award the job to Danka when Bircham was the low bidder.
Bruce denies aiding Bircham or compromising the bid process. He said he was watching out for taxpayers when he questioned the award to Danka and phoned Bircham.
“I disclosed it because I was interested in open government and providing services at the lowest cost to the taxpayer,” he said.
Bruce said he considers Danka’s complaint “scurrilous and libelous.”
Copier bids are difficult to compare head-to-head because different machines have different capabilities. Bircham’s bid was lower than Danka’s for some types of copiers and higher for others.
Bruce at the Oct. 31 meeting asked to see the bid tabulation summary and, after it was presented at the meeting, a copy of the pricing summary was given to Bircham.
Danka said the bid document should have remained confidential and Bruce never should have called Bircham about the meeting. Had it not been for Bruce’s interference, the contract wouldn’t have been rebid and Danka would have won the contract outright, Eric Spitzer, Danka’s regional account manager, told commissioners Thursday.
Bircham submitted a new bid using proprietary information he shouldn’t have had, Spitzer said.
Danka’s complaint points out that Bircham is listed as a Bruce backer on the commissioner’s Web site, www. douglasbruce.com.
Bircham is known for his advertisements in The Gazette and other publications that espouse his politics rather than promoting his products. He acknowledged Thursday that his conservative views sometimes get him in trouble.
“Unfortunately, because I’m a political activist and an outspoken person in the community, we get publicity,” he said. “I’m prepared to accept that.”
Ryan Lamb, Bircham vice president of sales, suggested the county led him to believe Bircham could win the contract outright.
County Attorney Bill Louis angrily accused Lamb of misleading the commission. Louis said all bidders knew of the possibility that multiple bids might be accepted.
“The only reason you are here is out of fairness,” Louis said, his voice rising. “The procurement department gave you and your company another shot when it did not have to do so. A lot of half-truths have been presented to my client, the board, today, and it is my obligation as their chief legal counsel to point it out to them.”
Lamb said the bidding process was confusing.
“There’s nothing wrong with the process,” Louis said loudly. “Everybody understood what this process was all about since the very beginning.”
The exchange prompted Commissioner Sallie Clark, chairwoman of the board, to call a 10-minute timeout so tempers could cool.
Afterward, Bircham pointed out that he endorsed Bruce but didn’t contribute cash to his campaign. By comparison, Bircham said, he contributed cash to Clark’s campaign and to other politicians who, like Bruce, share his conservative beliefs.
Commissioner Jim Bensberg asked Bircham why he mentioned campaign contributions in a discussion about copier contracts.
“I trust you’re not suggesting that in view of those contributions you should receive some special consideration from this board.”
“Your comment to me is disturbing,” he replied. “I do not take people to lunch like they do in Washington D.C. I do not bribe people. We win our bids honestly and fairly, and that is how we have established our reputation in this community.”
Bircham declined comment after the commissioners voted.
Spitzer said he and Danka will live with the decision.
“In the sense of competition, it’s a good thing for the county,” he said. “We’re satisfied.”
The county uses 106 copiers. It owns 10, leases 38 and rents 58 month-to-month.
The county’s monthly cost to rent copiers ranges from less than $50 to more than $500 per machine, depending on the copier features. It totals more than $150,000 per year.
County department heads determine which vendors to rent from based on copier features, services provided and the department’s needs.