Bid Out Water Board Legal Services?
Newest members of Bristol County Water Authority board of directors lead a discussion of bidding out legal services with an RFP.
Bidding out legal services for the Bristol County Water Authority – perhaps for the first time – got a lengthy airing at the monthly meeting of the board of directors on Wednesday evening.
The newest members of the Bristol County Water Authority board of directors, including one from Warren, led a bid discussion during this week's meeting.
Barrington director Kevin Fitta, at the request of the Town Council at its Monday meeting, questioned why the board did not send out a request for proposals (RFP) for legal services that have been provided for years by Sandra Mack without a competing bid.
Fitta got immediate responses from the two newest members of the board: Ray Palmieri of Warren and Robert Allio of Barrington, both at their first meetings after being appointed to the board this week.
Palmieri said: “Best business practices say go out to bid.”
“Business fashion says look at all services that way,” said Allio. “It’s not asking for anything unusual.”
William Gosselin of Warren, agreed: “If we don’t ask, we won’t know. Let’s see what’s out there.”
Gary Morse of Barrington, a frequent critic of the water authority board in the past, suggested the directors “look at the way other water authorities handle legal costs. Are we consistent with other water authorities?”
“Can we get numbers from other water authorities?” said Bristol representative Joe DeMelo.
Board Chairman John Jannitto said, though, that he is not sure “we can compare with other water authorities.”
“All we asked for is an RFP review,” said Bill DeWitt, the Barrington town councilor who is the liaison to the BCWA. “It does not have to be done. But I encourage you to do it.”
Gosselin said: “I don’t want Sandra to defend herself. I don’t want to do that.”
Mack explained how she bills the water authority.
“There is a total budget, not a per hour rate,” she said. “It is not correct that I charge a certain rate per hour. Nothing goes beyond the budget. If it goes over budget, it’s a write-off.”
New BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand, also attending her first board meeting, said only that: “A cap for legal fees is hard to find.”
After the lengthy discussion, the board agreed to keep the issue of an RFP for annual legal fees on the agenda for additional debate even as the new budget year just started on March 1.
The BCWA budget for legal fees last year was $90,000, although the board spent about $5,000 more than that, according to Mark Champagne, finance director.