As I understand the county’s response to my recent question concerning how much opportunity the general public will have to review the bids for Library outsourcing, there will be only three days during which the full contents of the bids will be available online prior to the meeting of the Board, when a final decision might be made. This seems woefully insufficient, and I propose that the Board extend that period to at least 30 days.
On Friday the 13th, the following item was added to the FAQ, describing the role of the public in the review and decision process:
“How will the public have access to review the proposals received in response to the RFP, and how is the “blue ribbon committee” going to work? … The Board directed the CEO to form a citizen committee to provide input to this process. … this input will go directly to the CEO who will provide a staff report to the Board in public session on the issue. A contract for service may or may not be a part of the CEO’s recommendation and report depending on the outcome of this review process. As this is a formal county procurement process and bound by governmental procurement procedures, the proposals and report cannot be made publically available until they are posted with the agenda for the Board meeting. This typically occurs on the Friday before the following Tuesday’s Board meeting. A Board meeting date has not been set for this topic to date. The Board agenda can be viewed on-line at http://www.mynevadacounty.com/boardofsupervisors/ or in the Board’s office in Nevada City.”
Clearly, then, the “blue ribbon committee” will represent the primary public participation in the review process prior to the Board’s decision. The current plan is that there will be a period of from three to four days between some future Friday’s public posting of the contents of the bids (along with the Board of Supervisors’ agenda) at the conclusion of the review process, and the subsequent Tuesday’s BOS meeting (date yet to be determined), at which time the county CEO “will provide a staff report to the Board [including a recommendation] in a public session on the issue.”
“Governmental procurement procedures” are cited as the imperative for concealing the contents of the competing bids from the general public until after the “completion of the review process” and the CEO is apparently ready to make a recommendation to the Board.
Such regulations make perfect sense as a means of maintaining a level playing field among all the bidders. If the contents of each bid were revealed at the time of submission, early submitters would automatically be put at a competitive disadvantage, since late bidders would be able to construct bids based on knowledge of early bid contents, clearly an unfair process.
Of course, once the deadline for the submission of bids has passed (3 PM November 19th?), the playing field is fixed, and — in my layman’s view at least — no harm would result from making the bid contents public.
In any case, there may be an opportunity for the general public to offer its feedback to the Board during the public session at its regular Tuesday meeting (whenever that occurs) before the Board makes its final decision. How important this feedback will be in the Board’s deliberations is entirely unknown.
Since library outsourcing is such a contentious issue in the community at large, I’d like to suggest a procedure whereby the general public would have a fuller opportunity — at least 30 days — both to review the bid contents and to give feedback to the full Board:
The Board should post its agenda plus the bid contents at least 30 days (not merely 3 days) prior to the Board meeting. If there is any regulation at all concerning the timing of the agenda’s posting, I suspect it specifies a minimum period prior to the meeting, not a maximum.
Allowing a longer period for public review and comment would be entirely consistent with governmental regulations regarding the integrity of the bidding process, as well as with the spirit of open government and democratic principles.