Attorney to review contracts

Attorney to review contracts

September 20th, 2009 by Matt Wilson in News

Upon the recommendation of several City Council members, the city attorney's office will review contracts that consultants download and fill out.

"That's apparently what the council would like for us to do," said City Attorney Mike McMahan. "To the extent practical, we will do so."

City Councilwoman Deborah Scott noted last week that two contracts for the city's Public Works Department were different, with one missing a section about record retention, a uniform component in all city contracts.

"I expect those contracts to be standard in many respects," she said. "The contract is what we have to go back to."

Ms. Scott asked how one contract got changed.

Lee Norris, deputy administrator with the city's Public Works Department, said the omission must have accidentally occurred while a consultant was filling out an online form.

Vendors or consultants can download a form to which they may enter information and then submit it to the city. Previously, the city attorney would review the contract before the start of work rather than before a council vote.

Councilwoman Carol Berz said she was surprised to hear that contractors had the ability to write or alter contracts.

"Nothing should come across our desk written by someone that stands to benefit from it," she said.

Mr. McMahan said officials will try to make sure the online forms are available in a format in which standard contract language cannot be altered.

"One thing we want to do for our own protection in the future is to have those contracts downloaded in a (portable document format) or some other format that cannot be amended except in the sections where they fill in their own information," he said.

Likewise, Mr. McMahan said his office will review and initial as many contracts as possible before they come to the council for a vote. But that's not always practical, he noted.

"Sometimes, you need to get fairly quick action," he said. "Sometimes the contracts are not totally finished yet."

WHAT'S NEXT

The City Council likely will vote on the two contracts in question -- one for a transportation planning study and another for sewer relocation -- on Tuesday.