Smithtown town officials have instituted a new procedure for renewing public contracts, aimed at giving the town board more oversight in assessing a contractor’s performance before voting on extensions.
The new bid procedure, which was effective Jan. 26, calls for the department responsible for working with the contractor to complete a Contractor Performance Review form about three months before the bid agreement expires, said town attorney Matthew Jakubowski, whose office developed the review process.
The form requires a department head to rate the contractor’s performance as “unsatisfactory,” “poor,” “satisfactory,” or “excellent” in categories such as quality of workmanship, timeliness of performance, working relationships with town personnel, compliance with safety procedures, and submitting payroll, invoices, change orders and other paperwork on time.
Department heads must also report whether they would recommend that existing or future town contracts with the contractor be extended or awarded.
The policy change follows Newsday’s Dec. 11 investigation showing that town board members awarded contracts worth more than $2.4 million in 2014 and 2015 to St. James-based Jadeco Construction Corp. for sidewalk and curb repairs after town highway department workers finished jobs that Jadeco had been contracted to undertake. Additionally, Jadeco had been warned the company’s “constant lethargic approach to work and unacceptable performance” could lead to daily fines of up to $2,500. Jadeco’s delays slowed the town’s annual road and sidewalk repair program, records showed.
Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio, Councilman Edward Wehrheim and former Councilman Robert Creighton said they were unaware of the problems with Jadeco when they cast their votes, and did not see town documents detailing some of those issues until a Newsday reporter presented them.
Wehrheim said Friday that the fact that the town’s contract issues were made public “was part and parcel about why the board took an action on this. We made sure that in the future, this policy will prevent it from happening again.”
Jakubowski said the town board asked him to review the bidding procedures and “I identified certain improvements that could be made.” He said the town was “looking to replace less formal procedures for bid awards and renewals.”
Councilman Thomas McCarthy said Friday that he pushed to get the safeguard in place because of bid problems that have arisen over the past few years.
“We relied too much on any one sole individual in the past and that failed us,” he said. “There were just not enough layers of eyeballs” on contractors.
The policy needed to be in place, McCarthy said, “so the town board knows exactly the performance of vendors when we vote on municipal bids, so we’re not voting in the blind.”
Wehrheim said the new policy will “give the town board much more detailed information on vendors and that’s going to allow board members to make better-informed decisions on awarding and extending contracts.”
Board members have said they relied heavily on advice from town purchasing department director Joseph Kostecki, who is tasked with vetting bidders and making bid recommendations in consultation with department heads.
Newsday reported that Smithtown in 2011 violated state law and town policy by paying Jadeco more than $500,000 for work undertaken without a contract. When the town’s comptroller told Jadeco the town could not pay for work performed outside of a contract, Jadeco filed a notice of claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — in December 2011 alleging “breach of contract based upon nonpayment of invoices.” The town countersued in 2013 to recoup its illegal payments to Jadeco. Those lawsuits are ongoing.
Under the new procedure, if a contractor wants to extend a bid, the purchasing department must prepare a town board resolution and forward it to the department that will work with the contractor, as well as the comptroller, town attorney and town board liaison with the review form and extension letter attached, Jakubowski said.
The review forms must also be completed at the end of each contract period, regardless of whether the contractor seeks a bid extension, and be forwarded to the purchasing department for filing, Jakubowski said. “This ensures that all town contractors are properly vetted and offers a tool that documents and analyzes contractor performance,” he said.