Flint, MI– The Flint City Council voted to hold an investigative hearing regarding a private bid process for waste collection contracts that has recently come to light.
The issue first came up at a special city council meeting on Monday, June 7.
At that meeting, Chief Financial Officer Shelbi Frayer said that the bid process for trash collection contracts in February and March was done incorrectly, according to the City’s charter.
Normally, in accordance with the charter, bids would be received, opened publicly, and read off in a public setting. Due to the pandemic, with City Hall closed, Frayer said the bid process occurred in a private room with only the internal purchasing staff present.
Frayer said because of this violation, the administration was working to negotiate a 90-day contract extension with current trash collection contractor, Republic Services, so they would have time to rebid.
At the meeting on Monday, Frayer said she did not believe it was anyone’s fault, and called it an “administrative error.” She said she did not find out about it until May.
At the city council committee meeting on June 9, the issue came up again.
In that meeting, Councilwoman Monica Galloway read aloud an internal memo about the bids dated March 24, addressed to Frayer.
“These two proposals were not considered by the evaluation committee and are now being returned to you for appropriate action,” Galloway read from the memo.
She questioned whether Frayer knew about the bid process earlier than she stated at the previous meeting.
Frayer said that while she got that memo about the bids, it still was not until April 29 that she had found out that the bid process was done in private against the charter. (At the June 7 meeting she said it was in May. On June 9 she acknowledged that she was off by a couple of days.)
“I knew that it had happened back in February and March. When I learned that the bids were not opened properly in a public session wasn’t until May,” she said. ” I, in fact, went back through my email and saw that the first email I received with the actual copy of who was in attendance for those bids was on April 29, so I apologize I was a day late there on my response.”
Councilman Eric Mays asked why, even if she was telling the truth, she and other members of the administration including City Administrator Clyde Edwards, Director of the Department of Public Works Michael Brown, and Attorney Angela Wheeler, did not mention the issue with the bid process sooner.
“If y’all knew about that garbage stuff in April, and not May, that gave the whole month of May to tell us. We were in budget hearings,” Mays said. “It’s appalling we find that out on the day of adoption.”
Frayer said that she needed to make sure she followed the processes correctly, and spent time meeting with the legal department to “make sure we didn’t mess up the process anymore than it already was.” She said there were parts of the process that could not be released to the public at the time.
“This is something I had never experienced before, and I wanted to make sure we were following the rules,” Frayer said.
Mays made the motion to invoke an investigative hearing, and the motion passed 5 to 4.
Council President Kate Fields, Councilwoman Eva Worthing, Councilman Santino Guerra, and Councilman Allan Griggs voted against the investigative hearing.