Grays Harbor County officials received a “Management Letter” from the Office of the Washington State Auditor this month that recommends improvements to compliance.
The letter flagged three procurement transactions:
• $19,073 worth of chairs for the juvenile department.
• Two contracts, worth a total of $43,445, for the installation of camera equipment at two buildings.
• $21,532 worth of firearms reflex sights by the Sheriff’s Office.
“County policy is more restrictive than state law,” the letter states, “and requires that the County use the vendor list roster or the formal sealed bidding process for purchases between $10,000 and $25,000; for purchases exceeding $25,000, the County must use the formal sealed bidding process.”
To buy the chairs, the county did not use the vendor list nor sealed bidding process. Instead, the department bought the chairs directly from the vendor.
In purchasing the 76 reflex sights, the Sheriff’s Office claimed a special market conditions exemption (e.g. it was on sale). However, the letter states, “This price is available from the manufacturer to all government agencies and is not time-sensitive; as a result, the market conditions exemption was not reasonable.”
For the purchase and installation of security cameras at two buildings, the county treated it as two purchases when it should have been treated as one public works project. The unified project “should have gone through the formal sealed bidding process,” the letter states. Instead, the county “used the piggybacking method” and the contracts were considered part of a previous project that was not awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.
Commissioner Randy Ross said the county is aware of the oversights and is making adjustments to avoid these situations in the future.
“The management letter does give concern to the (Board of County Commissioners,) and currently, staff members are reviewing our current policies and will work on a plan to provide additional training to departments and staff to insure law and policy are being followed,” he said in an email.
He believes training and better awareness of county policy and state laws can help avoid problems like those from the purchase of the chairs and cameras.
Regarding the Sheriff’s Office purchase of the firearms sights, Ross said the following: “We have decided to no longer use the ‘special market conditions’ exemption but believe going ‘out to bid’ is a better alternative.”
He said, the board “takes these items seriously and is taking reasonable steps to insure all public funds are spent in compliance with established state laws and policies … .”