Commission office almost exceeds bid law limit
By Sheryl Marsh
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The Morgan County Commission office doled out small printing jobs to a local company until it almost exceeded the bid law limit of $7,500.
Chairman John Glasscock, who is in charge of the office, said that's why his county administrator, Syble Atkins, brought the matter to his attention weeks ago.
County records show that Medical & Industrial Marketing has received $7,864 for supplies it provided for the commission office since Oct. 1, 2006, the beginning of the current fiscal year. The amount includes a desk, and that kept the county from exceeding the bid limit for like materials.
Glasscock said his office did not circumvent the bid law.
The Decatur-based company owned by Charlie Bryant, a candidate for sheriff in the last Democratic primary, provided stationery and checks for the commission office as well as furniture for the Community Corrections office. The company also provided requisition books and business cards for the county.
The County Commission adopted a resolution in 2004 requiring all county offices to participate in the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing program. The provider for all departments is Office Depot.
Deputy License Commissioner Patsy Dougherty said they are to use Office Depot for all office supplies, including furniture.
Glasscock said his office got one desk for Community Corrections from Medical & Industrial. The cost was $1,594.
He said the rest of the furniture for the Community Corrections office came from the state bid list. He said corrections needed a desk quickly and that's why he got one from Medical and Industrial.
Atkins said she alerted Glasscock that payments for printed materials had exceeded the bid limit.
Glasscock said after learning that from Atkins he got the commission to authorize him to bid all printed materials during a meeting in March.
The chairman had an item on Tuesday's agenda to accept a low bid of $243 from Medical & Industrial Supplies for stationery for Sheriff Greg Bartlett's office. The order was for 1,000 letterheads and envelopes. The sheriff sent a request through an employee for the commission to table the item, and it did.
Bryant said he responded to a bid invitation from the commission office.
"I'm not a real advocate of the bid process because you lose the ability to give a lot of customer service," Bryant said. "If somebody wants you to bid on something, they are asking for a specific product, they are not asking for your expertise."
The state bid law states that officials cannot circumvent the law through divided purchases until they add up to the $7,500 limit.
The law states, "No purchase or contract involving an amount in excess of $7,500 shall be divided into parts involving amounts of $7,500 or less for the purpose of avoiding the requirements of this article."
Mike Scroggins, chief of county audits for the state Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, gave an example of someone trying to get around the law.
"If they were going to buy four items that cost $10,000 and they made split purchases to reach that amount, that would be to avoid the law," Scroggins explained.
Glasscock said the items from Medical & Industrial varied and did not violate the bid law. He said it's hard to keep up with purchases to avoid exceeding the limit.
"Keeping up with a maximum amount is almost impossible," Glasscock said. "But we do our best to do so."
Records show that the company received $4,627 during the 2005-06 fiscal year; and $2,647 in 2004-05.
Atkins said the county did not bid printed materials for those years. She said records for prior years were not immediately available.
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