Two weeks ago, the Seward County Commission saw fit to select the lower bid on purchasing two vehicles for Cimarron Basin Community Corrections. The lowest bid came from Chrysler Corner on two used Dodge Avengers with about 20,000 miles, and a government purchasing agent GSA turned in a higher bid for two newer Chevy Impalas.
The GSA was recently highlighted in the national news for using taxpayer dollars for lavish parties, over-the-top conferences and expensive parody videos made at taxpayer’s expense. Most might remember the photo of GSA director Jeff Neely in a Vegas bathtub with two glasses of wine.
Monday, after Commission Chairman Ada Linenbroker put the item back on the agenda for further discussion, Commissioner Randy Malin switched his vote from the local, cheaper bid and opted for the more expensive GSA vehicles, joining Linenbroker and C.J. Wettstein in spending more money when both cars met the criteria.
The question arose whether or not providing the quotes for the car purchases was simply informational, or if the Commission actually had statutory authority over Community Corrections.
The advice of legal counsel — Seward County has oversight, and Community Corrections is not an autonomous organization.
When it comes to a tax-supported entity, there is no such thing as autonomy.
Everyone answers to the taxpayers.
The structure for making the Cimarron Basin Community Corrections accountable is to provide state funding but to have a “host county” review those purchases and approve them.
Since Seward County is the host county, the Board of Commissioners is responsible to the people for the decisions made by Community Corrections.
This fact was shared with the Commission, and they still opted for more expensive vehicles.
A simple mathematical equation shows the used cars to still be the better value. Deducting the miles on the used Avengers, the cost of the purchase price per mile to reach 200,000 miles is 17.1 cents per mile. For the new Impalas, the cost of the purchase is 17.8 cents per mile.
Malin seemed to be concerned about the four cylinder Avenger vs. the six cylinder Impala, but he knew that two weeks ago when he voted for the least expensive four cylinder Avengers.
Commissioner Doug LaFreniere provided a clear explanation that the bidding process is worthless if the lower bid is not accepted.
He also pointed out that local vendors are no longer providing bids because they feel that local boards and officials will “do what they want to anyway.”
After rescinding the low bid vote and accepting the higher one, LaFreniere is exactly right.
He was also right when he said Seward County had oversight responsibility. That also means they have to answer to the people on decisions like this, and those people are the voters in Seward County.
Community Corrections serves 11 counties, and by all accounts does a great job. But like any tax-supported agency, there has to be oversight representing the people, and in this case, it is the Seward County Commission.
LaFreniere and Jim Rice stuck to local support at a lower cost to the taxpayer, and we applaud them for their commitment to the entire 11-county region of Community Corrections in offering oversight. Too bad a majority of the commission did not agree to exercise their statutory authority to control costs.