School Board Contractor Selection: Changes in Store

GOAL:

A Polk County School Board Process for Selecting Contractors
 that is “Fair, Equitable and Transparent”

A “white paper summary” of a June 15 Meeting between Polk County Chamber of Commerce representatives and Assistant Superintendent for Facilities/Operations, Fred Murphy.

Over the past 90 days, a number of Polk County’s Chamber executives and their
volunteer leaders have been approached by local contractors who felt the process used for selecting contractors to manage major construction projects of the Polk County Public School System was flawed and unfair. There exists a strong feeling that dollars spent for Polk Schools should be spent with those businesses that are legitimately based in Polk County. There also exists a strong desire to ensure the process is free of favoritism.

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Following discussions that initially took place between Lakeland, Bartow and Winter Haven Chamber executives, a decision was made to request a meeting with Polk Public Schools Administration. Immediately upon inquiry, Superintendent Gail McKinzie offered to arrange such a meeting with Assistant Superintendent for Facilities/Operations, Fred Murphy. (Murphy was tapped to resolve contractor selection and favoritism issues in November 2008 following the initiation of an FBI investigation into alleged wrongdoing by district staff.)

On June 15, Mr. Murphy met with representatives from the Bartow, Davenport, Haines City, Lakeland, Mulberry and Winter Haven Chambers of Commerce. The two-hour meeting was framed by a thorough review of where Polk Public Schools are in their efforts to create a contractor selection process that is “fair, equitable and transparent.”

Mr. Murphy spoke for the majority of the two-hours allocated and displayed a sincere commitment to creating a selection process that may not always make everyone happy, but a process that will truly be “fair, equitable and transparent.” The phrase is repeated here again to underscore Murphy’s repetitive statement of commitment.

He provided detailed information regarding the policy which is currently in its final draft stages. More importantly Mr. Murphy addressed two important points:

a.)    Within the new policy (under development), the mere offer of a gift by a contractor to a School Board representative will cost a contractor any future right to do business with the School Board.  The gift policy will prohibit school personnel from accepting gifts with a monetary value over $50.00.

b.)   The new selection process will include a “local recognition of proximity” policy that will provide a legally defensible edge for Polk County-based contractors.

Chamber representatives present felt that positive steps were being taken to develop a process for contractor selection that was indeed “fair, equitable and transparent.” Those Chambers present have since conferred and expressed confidence that Fred Murphy’s goals for the Contractor Selection Process will be a significant step forward and hold the potential to restore contractor confidence and respect.

The new policy is expected to be presented to the School Board for consideration by August. When the policy is finalized, we will present the document in its entirety.

The commitment of all Chambers involved is to bring positive change to this contractor procurement process. Mr. Murphy displays a sincere grasp of the challenge and the commitment to make such positive change.

We welcome members’ comments regarding this important “buy local” issue.