Plan for alternate ordinance on bidding emerges amid more wrangling
While a Representative Town Meeting committee has given unanimous support to drafting an ordinance that would legally define policies on competitive bidding for town contracts, the action may have wrested control of the process from RTM members who initially advocated for the law.
For a second time this month, a sometimes contentious meeting of the Ordinance Committee on Monday heard debate over a proposal to encode town competitive bidding practices into law, rather than non-binding policies, for contracts of $20,000 and higher.
When consensus on details of the proposed ordinance proved elusive, Peter Gold, RTM District 5, made a motion to have the town attorney draft a different ordinance to be considered by the full RTM.
“I’m not trying to delay this and I don’t want you to think that I am,” Gold told the group petitioning for an ordinance, but “in the form that your ordinance is in now, there are blanks,” which he said he couldn’t understand.
“There are a lot of good things in here, (but) you don’t have a monopoly on all good ideas … I would like to see an ordinance that Gail and Ira have drafted,” he said, referring to Ira Bloom, town attorney, and Gail Kelly, assistant town attorney.
“You can’t make a motion like that,” said Kristan Hamlin, RTM District 4, who has spearheaded the effort. “That’s not what the Ordinance Committee does.”
Eileen Flug, District 9, the committee chairwoman and RTM moderator, who called Hamlin to task numerous times during the meeting for interrupting, disagreed. “We can’t take away your ordinance,” she said, but the panel could sanction creation of another proposal, which she said could ultimately be presented to the RTM by different petitioners.
“The Ordinance Committee is asking for a second ordinance … We’re not asking you to replace your ordinance. We can look at two ordinances,” she said.
Hamlin expressed frustration that she spent considerable time trying to revise the ordinance following input from Bloom and others. Committee members, however, received the latest draft only on the day of the meeting and had no time to review it. “We are willing to hear from all of the stakeholders,” Hamlin said.
She noted, however, that the committee “cannot tell the petitioners what to write. All they can do it make recommendations … One of things that I think is very, very important is not to change the rules as we go along and not to put your finger on the scale.”
“To me it appears as if it’s being railroaded down our throats,” said Neil Phillips, RTM District 2. “I think that we do need more time to explore this and have something that makes sense in the end. I don’t think anyone is saying this is a bad idea.”
Kelly said she would review the petitioners’ latest draft — and hopes to work with the petitioners — but made no promises that her version would contain everything to their satisfaction. While she said she would try to put together a proposal quickly, it wouldn’t be done in time for a December meeting.
“In good faith we did what you asked us to do,” Hamlin said. “We made the changes that you asked us to make, (but) you’ve acknowledged that you haven’t read it ... I’m asking you to tell us what is the date that you will have read our ordinance by … if you’re not ready to review the changes that we have made, please tell us a date when.”
“I’ll be ready to review it two weeks after I get the town attorney’s ordinance so that I’ll have something to compare it to,” Gold said.
Flug explained that the ordinance as currently written is “not linear … It’s not in the form of an ordinance … It’s really not in good enough shape for people to read it and understand it.”
“This 10-26 version … you haven’t bothered to read,” Hamlin said.
“You need to be more respectful,” Flug said. “You can’t say we didn’t bother to read it.”
“And you need to be more respectful, too,” Hamlin said.
“We haven’t bothered to read it because we got it an hour ago, so don’t say we haven’t bothered to read it,” Gold said.
“The climate of this meeting seems to be difficult for work to get done,” observed Wendy Batteau, RTM District 8, who tried to get clarification on whether the town attorneys could create a draft ordinance that would still belong to the petitioners if they want to tweak it.
“They certainly have an opportunity to comment on anything that we do,” Kelly said, noting that the draft “would be to take the best” from the petitioners while incorporating language from municipal ordinances, input and the town charter.
“We’ll try to work together to draft something,” she said “I’m not saying I’m in favor of your ordinance,” but added that she would work with the petitioners “to find one that is workable for the town.”