*NEWS*TEXAS:THE LEGIT COPIER-CONTRACT ?

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*NEWS*TEXAS:THE LEGIT COPIER-CONTRACT ?

 user 2006-01-25 at 10:49:00 am Views: 97
  • #14320

    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    procurement department, has since been withdrawn.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.”
    Bircham bristled.
    “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.