Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gifford Miller takes another rap as audit slams contracts

Saturday, September 22nd 2007, Daily News

The City Council played fast and loose in awarding $1.67 million in printing work under former Speaker Gifford Miller, a city audit charged yesterday.

The report said competitive bidding requirements were skirted by splitting big contracts into several smaller ones that didn't reach the $5,000 bidding threshold.

The few times bids were requested, affiliated companies were allowed to submit rival bids - raising the prospect of price fixing, the audit said.

The findings by city Controller William Thompson rub salt into old wounds for Miller, who left the Council at the end of 2005 because of term limits - just three months after he finished fourth in the Democratic primary for mayor.

Although the audit doesn't fault Miller individually, it focuses on the blizzard of constituent mailings that he had authorized back in August 2005.

Initially, his office had reported mailing only 100,000 flyers, which featured Miller and touted the Council's budget positions, at a cost of $37,000. But a few days later, Miller aides admitted 5.5 million flyers had been mailed at a cost of $1.6 million.

By "intentionally splitting these printing purchases the Council was disregarding its responsibilities and neglecting its obligation to the City of New York," the audit concluded.

Miller, 38, now a business consultant, did not return a call for comment.

Thompson spokesman Jeff Simmons said the audit found no criminality.

Frank Lombardi

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thompson: Council Broke Multiple Rules Under Miller

Daily News Blog, September 21, 2007
Comptroller Bill Thompson released an audit of Council purchasing from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005 (during ex-Speaker Gifford Miller’s tenure) that found the Council violated the city charter, its own rules and Procurement Policy Board rules, including spending $1.67 million on printing without entering into formal contracts.

“Instead of awarding a printing contract through competition, the Council intentionally split printing orders or made several small purchases for individual members to prevent the total from reaching the $5,000 threshold for competition,” Thompson said.
It’s a little bit techincal, but here’s the upshot, from Thompson’s report:

In general, the City Charter and the PPB rules require that contracts be awarded through competition. Instead?ith the exception of three purchases totaling $35,470?he Council split printing orders or made several small purchases by individual Council members to prevent the total from reaching the $5,000 threshold for small purchases above which would have required the solicitation of bids from five vendors or a full public procurement.
The Council also:

- Let permitted affiliated companies to submit competing bids against each other for the same proposa.

- Used miscellaneous vouchers for all Member purchases and ?hared?expenditures, totaling $3.49 million, violating a Comptroller’s directive.

- Broke Council and PPB rules when making OTPS expenditures from its Central Office by not obtaining bids on purchases that exceeded $500 (Council rules) and $5,000 (PPB rules).

- Did not use requirement contracts in 22 instances when procuring various items totaling $14,232.

- Made improper and questionable payments, totaling $54,939.

- Made improper and questionable imprest fund payments, totaling $2,837.

During the 2005 mayor’s race, questions were raised about Miller’s use of in-house mailings. He defended the practice - which, it should be noted, is a routinely engaged in endeavor - as legal.

UPDATE: Thompson spokesman Jeff Simmons said no evidence of criminality was found in the audit, and thus it was not forwarded to DOI. (Yes, that’s fixed. Writing too fast. Sorry).