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Vote to toughen Suffolk competitive bidding process rules delayed

A Suffolk legislative committee on Monday delayed a vote on a bill that would make it harder for the county to bypass the competitive bidding process.

The proposed law would add a fourth member appointed by the minority leader to the county’s waiver committee, which votes to suspend rules for issuing requests for proposals regarding consulting contracts. The county executive’s office uses the waiver committee to expedite the bidding process for consulting services, including in cases where officials want to “invite” a bid because of a company’s expertise in an area, said Public Works Commissioner Gilbert Anderson.

The current three-member panel, which meets monthly, is made up of two appointees from the county executive and one appointed by the legislative majority leader.

A waiver from the usual competitive bidding process would, under the bill, have to have three of the four votes to move forward.

Cilmi said it would bring additional scrutiny to the waiver process.

“The rules are there for good reason,” said Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) the bill’s sponsor. “If you’re going to waive the rules, you ought to have a better reason.”

Representatives from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s administration and some lawmakers on the public works committee said they opposed the bill because it could hamper government efficiency.

Tom Vaughn, Bellone’s director of intergovernmental relations, said the number of contracts waived by the county declined from 128 in 2012 to 92 in 2013. The county is on pace to waive 8 contracts this year, Vaughn said.

He said the county legislature already has a long history of raising objections to projects.

“Certainly no one does a good job in gagging the Suffolk County Legislature,” Vaughn said.

Legis. Thomas F. Barraga (R-West Islip) expressed concern about tie votes on a four-member board. Barraga suggested a five-member board, with the new members appointed by the legislative minority leader and the county executive. Cilmi said he might support a five-member board.

The bill was tabled Monday, but committee chairman Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) promised to take up the bill again later this month.

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