WU Council Defers Decisions

July 28, 2015 By:Anne Marie Kilday

Local News

At the behest of Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kelly, the West U City Council on Monday delayed a routine decision on a new law firm to collect the city’s outstanding municipal court fines and the council’s own rules of procedure.

Although city staff had recommended that West U award the contract to the law firm of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson,.Kelly demanded that the item on the consent agenda be postponed for two weeks. He wanted a report from a committee of city staffers who reviewed three bids for the contract.

Although the contract was on the council’s consent agenda, which is usually reserved for non-controversial items, Kelly made it a controversy.

Attorney Mike Darlow, with the law firm of Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins & Mott, asked the council to defer consideration of the contract for two weeks. Kelly later confirmed that Darlow had called him earlier in the day to ask for the delay.

A representative of the firm also wrote a two-page email to Mayor Susan Sample, although the city’s request for proposals specifically stated that “no lobbying” was allowed on the bid.

Another provision of the city’s request for proposals clearly stated that the interested law firms should have “no contact” with city officials or employees.

City Manager Michael Ross tried to explain that the firm had been disqualified by the staff panel because of the lobbying effort.

“There was a clear anti-lobbying provision” in the city’s request for bids, Ross said.

Kelly insisted that Darlow’s phone call “definitely was not lobbying.”

But Sample said the earlier e-mail she received from the Perdue law firm was “a rather long email” and that she “thought it was lobbying.”

Kelly then insisted that a law firm is “trained not to engage in violations of the law.”

Another provision of the request for proposals also clearly stated that there was to be “no contact” with city officials or staff.

“Inquiries shall not be made to other City officials or employees. Any inquiries made outside of this requirement will cause immediate disqualification of the potential Offeror,” the RFP stated.

Mike Swiwierka, a partner in the Perdue law firm, wrote an email to Mayor Sample in violation of that “no contact” provision on Friday, July 24.

In his email, Swiwierka wrote: “I think out law firm would be a good choice for the council and would like an opportunity to make a presentation to council or to the review committee.”

The request for proposals also imposed a deadline of  June 15, 2015.

The responses to the RFP were reviewed by a staff committee composed of Assistant City Manager Chris Peifer, City Finance Director Rhonda Daugherty, Police Chief Ken Walker,  City Secretary Thelma Lenz and Municipal Court Clerk Gaby Perez.

Kelly said he wanted “a little bit of a report” from the city staff explaining why the Linebarger firm was chosen.

Councilmember Mardi Turner seconded Kelly’s request to delay consideration of the contract, so the issue was delayed for two weeks.

The council also agreed to postpone consideration of the council’s own rules of procedure, due to the absences of Councilmembers Brennan Reilly and Burt Ballanfant. Both councilmen were out of town on vacation.

A former member of the West U Council spoke out against a proposed rules change that would allow a council member to call for a majority vote to cut off discussion of issues before the council.

“That provision is just not West U,” said former Councilmember Phyllis Cohen. “Cutting off debate is not what we are about.”

She noted that the four newly elected members of the council had campaigned on a pledge of bringing more transparency to municipal government. The proposed rules change, Cohen said, “Is the exact opposite of the transparency you promised when you ran for election.”

Former Councilman Dick Yehle address the council on their recent efforts to oust City Manager Michael Ross.

“The issue is we need to keep Michael Ross because he is doing a good job,” Yehle said.

Although Kelly spoke for about 15 minutes at the last council meeting about the city charter giving the council the “unfettered right” to hire the city manager, Yehle said, “I found it to be a lot of hot air.”

“Find the decency to expeditiously end their sordid situation. Let’s begin moving in a positive direction,” Yehle said.

West U residents Eddie Matthews and Jim Shields also spoke against the proposed rules change.

And, Shields echoed Yehle’s comments about Ross.

“If at all possible, just make this thing go away. Start behaving like friends and neighbors,” Shields said.

Shields also spoke directly to Kelly.

“You were a great mayor. Stop behaving this way,” Shields said.

The council did take action Monday night on approving a change to the City Code of Ordinances that will allow a new veterinary clinic to open in West U. After a meeting with neighbors near the proposed new clinic of Veterinarian Dr. Jan Jordan. Building and Standards Commission Steve Brown said “a compromise” was reached that satisfies all the parties. That compromise would require animals being treated at the clinic to be walked on the “commercial property” side of the new clinics, away from nearby residences.



9 Responses to “WU Council Defers Decisions”

  1. Mellissa Martin Says:

    Does Kelly receive something if Perdue gets this little contract? Why is he willing to push so hard for them when they clearly violated the rfp? Something does not smell right.

  2. Tangley Resident Says:

    OK. Enough is enough. Bob Kelly is way, way over the line. I want someone to come forward to defend Kelly’s position. Lucille? Where are you?

    Bob Kelly says he was called by a lawyer for a unsuccessful bidder for a city contract. The bidder asked what he could do to reopen the bidding process.

    Bob Kelly says that that is not “lobbying.”

    Bob Kelly is either:
    a) Stupid
    b) He thinks we are all stupid
    c) Bob Kelly is insane.

    Take your choice.

  3. WUES Mom Says:

    Councilmember Kelly got called by the guy. How is that not lobbying? Bob, I am starting to worry about you. Seriously.

  4. Will Bertron Says:

    Question- City Council meets on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month. Can one (actually two!) not plan their vacations around that schedule? I have served on a number of volunteer boards, in fact chairing many of them, and I have always held that responsibility as a priority over my personal activities. Call me old fashioned, but isn’t that a reflection of commitment, or lack thereof? Thanks to the three of you who met this past Monday. Shame on the two of you who took an oath to serve and then left town.

  5. Steven Segal Says:

    “Lobbying” is generally defined as the act of attempting to influence decisions made by legislators. It appears clear, from the reports below, that our city manager and staff acted appropriately by disqualifying the firm in question. What part of this does Bob Kelly not understand? The slate needs to step back and let Michael Ross and the staff do their job — which they do very well together.

  6. Johnny B Says:

    I was not there. But is Bob Kelly actually saying that someone calling him about a vote on a contract is NOT lobbying? If that is what he said, how did we elect this rube?

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Bob will say that he made it clear to the lawyer that he could not discuss the contract but if the lawyer wanted to address the Council last night he was free to do so. Bob was not thinking clearly.

      What he should have told the lawyer is that if he did attend the meeting and try to influence the elected officials about his firm’s proposal, that would be lobbying and that would disqualify his firm.

      As I said, the bid tab will not include this disqualified firm’s proposal.

  7. Jim Shields Says:

    If you are interested in my take on the meeting, you can find my post on the following article:

    WU council meets Monday, but two will be vacationing.

    I will have to say that Kelly’s tone deafness was stunning.

    During the debate on allowing a law firm to address the council, Bob, totally out of the blue, began his discourse on lawyers. He felt it important to tell us that lawyers have to get accepted to and attend law school, they have to pass the bar exam, they have to swear to uphold the law, and lawyers know better than anyone else how to follow the rules. Then we find out that the lawyer Bob invited to speak at the meeting broke the no lobbying rule.

    When I heard this I could only think that Bob started happy hour well before he came to the meeting. It was a speech that your old uncle Harry makes at family gatherings when he gets too deep into his cups.

    My suspicion that alcohol was disconnecting Bob’s brain from his mouth came a few moments later when he began his rant on transparency. The Bob Kelly who promised total transparency while he trashed his friends and neighbors on the old council during the campaign, went behind everyone’s back, and tried to fire Mike Ross in secret meetings just three days into his term, felt the need to lecture us on transparency. He didn’t even realize that he was talking about a procurement process that has nothing to do with transparency.

    I would hope that now he has sobered up he will back off his ridiculous charges but there is always the possibility that he will get liquored up before the next meeting.

    We’ll see. It’s sad to have to witness such behavior.

    • Jim Shields Says:

      I should have mentioned in the above post that Bob is a seasoned litigator who spent his career working in the business world.

      He knows that the City is audited.

      He knows that auditors look into procurement procedures.

      He knows that bid tabs are checked to make sure there is nothing fraudulent and that phone calls are made to bidders to check facts.

      He knows that auditors know how to find under the table payments.

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