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Archive for Friday, November 12, 1999

NO-BID CONTRACTS COMMON FOR STATE

November 12, 1999

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The state often approves no-bid contracts, especially for people who are uniquely qualified for a job.

J-W Wire Reports

Topeka -- Lawmakers dismayed by a plump no-bid contract given to a former deputy secretary in the Department on Aging say they want an audit to determine whether such contracts are common in state government.

Apparently, they're not so unusual.

A review of state records by The Wichita Eagle found more than $55 million in no-bid contracts were awarded during the 1999 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

In several cases, the contracts went to former state employees.

The figures are according to records maintained by the state Division of Purchases and obtained under the Kansas Open Records Act.

Last week, Thelma Hunter Gordon resigned as secretary of the Kansas Department on Aging after stories in the Lawrence Journal-World disclosed she had awarded a $135,000 contract to her former deputy just days after he left the department.

Gordon awarded the contract to Terry Glasscock, the brother of House Republican Leader Kent Glasscock and a friend of Gov. Bill Graves, without first taking bids for the services he promised to provide, and without first getting permission to award the contract on a no-bid basis.

No-bid contracts represent only a fraction of state spending. The highway department alone spent $400 million last year on contracts for road construction.

Essentially, state law dictates that all contracts with state agencies be based on competitive bids unless an agency decides it would be better not to solicit bids.

The state purchasing division is supposed to review and approve all requests for no-bid contracts.

Agencies award no-bid contracts for numerous services, including legal representation, consulting, advertising and equipment purchases, a review of the state purchasing records found.

Some agencies argued for no-bid contracts, noting that only one company could provide a specific service or product. Other contractors were picked because either they were willing to do the job in a tight time frame or the agency was familiar with the contractor's work.

That was the reason cited when the Board of Emergency Medical Services hired a rock band -- Vince Vance and the Valiants -- to perform at a pediatric symposium in Topeka. A memo submitted in support of the no-bid contract said, "Saw this group perform at Kansas State Fair in 1998 and they did an outstanding job."

During the past year, several no-bid contracts were awarded by state agencies to former employees who, like Terry Glasscock, had just left their agencies. In most instances, the agencies said they needed the services of former employees because of their special expertise.

Currently, there is little restriction on the practice of hiring former employees. State law says departing employees must wait two years before getting a state contract only if they were involved in drafting the contract.

Former state employees who have received no-bid contracts include:

  • Jerry Tallent, who retired June 15 as an administrative service chief for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. That same day, $35,000 was approved to hire Tallent to audit grants and examine SRS policies and work and then recommend changes, according to records.

In its request for the funds, SRS stated that hiring Tallent was justified because of his familiarity with the agency and his willingness to travel to remote locations within the state.

  • Scott Stacy, who left the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in September 1998, according to records. That same month, KDHE requested $8,400 in a no-bid contract for Stacy to work on AIDS grants he had helped put together while with the agency, according to the records.

"Because of his past experience in the AIDS section, his education and authorship of major parts of both of these grants, Dr. Stacy has the unique experience and skills necessary for the successful implementation of these prevention grants," the KDHE memo to the Division of Purchases said.

KDHE officials say Stacy was paid about $1,600 before a replacement was hired to take over the job. KDHE said Stacy was not paid out of funds from grants that he had written.

  • Jim Proctor and Tony Barry, former employees of the Kansas Corporation Commission. They were hired by the KCC to work on issues before the commission. Proctor, who left the state in 1990, got a $132,500 contract to review the proposed merger of Western Resources and Kansas City Power and Light. Barry's law firm got a $50,000 contract for legal services in the Southwestern Bell telephone audit.
  • Marvin Stottlemire, a former attorney for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment who retired from the agency in June 1998. Less than a year later, he was hired by KDHE for $11,500 "to facilitate development of comprehensive recommendations for changes in the current public health statutes in Kansas."

Three months after that he was also hired by the Juvenile Justice Authority for $10,000 to develop a "comprehensive policy and procedural manual for the Juvenile Justice Authority and its four correctional facilities."

In both instances, the agencies noted that Stottlemire's familiarity with state government made him uniquely qualified for the job.

Some lawmakers have raised questions about contracts to former state employees, in light of the controversy over Gordon's hiring Glasscock to "re-engineer" the structure and performance of the Department on Aging.

After the Journal-World disclosed the contract, Gordon resigned, the contract with Glasscock was terminated and the state ordered Glasscock to return $90,000.

Some lawmakers say it is unfair for a former state employee to receive a contract from his former employer.

Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, plans to introduce legislation when the session starts in January to prohibit state officers and employees from entering into consulting contracts within three years of leaving state employment.

"The only way to ensure (the trust of the people) is to prohibit sweetheart deals for former employees and elected officials," Neufeld said.

On Wednesday, Kansas legislative leaders began wrangling over how to find out whether contracts like the one with Glasscock are the norm in Kansas.

Leaders indicated they would come up with some kind of agreement by next week to investigate contracts in general.

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