ARLINGTON — The city moved too quickly on the purchase of an ambulance in 2010, and didn’t properly follow state bid law.
The state Auditor’s office identified the mistake in its most recent audit of the city, calling it significant enough to report it as a finding.
“We goofed,” said city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield. “We appreciate the help from the state and we have corrected our practices. In this case, we made contacts with all the usual bidders, but did not keep any documentation. We bought a demonstration model for a cut-rate cost.”
State auditors said the city did not comply with state bid law when it failed to provide all interested bidders with a formal opportunity to submit proposals, therefore the city could not ensure that it got the vehicle at the most reasonable price.
There are exceptions to the bid law, the audit report said, but the City Council has to approve a resolution stating the basis for an exemption or by publicly declaring an emergency before awarding a contract.
The city had delayed replacing a nearly 20-year-old ambulance. When it finally broke down, the department contacted three ambulance makers for cost quotes instead of publishing a standard competitive bid advertisement.
The department got back one quote for an ambulance available in 30 days, so then fire chief Jim Rankin asked the City Council to approve the purchase immediately.
The ambulance cost the city $128,142.
City officials did not understand what qualified as an exemption to bid requirements, and council members believed the request was a legitimate emergency allowable under bid laws, the audit report said.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.