Minutes from 11-23-21 Delran Council meeting.
Patrick Duff, Haddon Heights residents, stated that the last time we were here some questions were asked and not answered. At the last meeting he asked if there were contracts over the $44,000 that included both services. Some refused to answer and some said they were concept proposals. Mr. Duff stated that there were four contracts over $44,000 that included all services. Mr. Duff stated that he sent in an OPRA request for emails related to the event and the only emails he received were from Colin Rafferty, nothing from Mayor and Council. An email on September 25th or 26th, Mr. Rafferty indicated that they were having an issue with the bidding threshold. The first question is what was the issue with the bidding threshold. Since the bidding threshold is $44,000 and the current bid was $61,500, we can figure that the issue may be that the bidding threshold is almost $20,000 less. In the next email, Mr. Rafferty goes on to say that the Solicitor told him to separate the quote and another word for separate is split. Mr. Duff stated that The Township took the same services and split the quote into two for the exact same amount, $22,500 for the video services and $39,000 for the stage/audio services. Mr. Duff stated that the main red flags with procurement fraud are even numbers and multiple contracts that create other contracts which has happened here. Mr. Duff stated that for Mayor and Council to say they didn’t split the services doesn’t make any sense, as it is clear that they did. To say you didn’t there were no quote above $44,000 is a lie and to release only Mr. Rafferty’s emails is cowardly. Mr. Duff asked what the issue was with the bidding threshold mentioned in the email from Colin Rafferty and whether Mr. Siciliano told Colin to split the services.
Mr. Siciliano stated that he is not going to answer the question.
Mr. Burrell stated that all of his emails were provided and under review by the Solicitor’s office and will be provided. There was no grand conspiracy in providing Colin’s email earlier than the others. Mr. Burrell asked Mr. Siciliano to explain the procurement process.
Mr. Siciliano stated that the procurement process is very broad. The Township has an opportunity to obtain services in a number of manners. Mr. Siciliano stated that as he said before, no laws were broken and we continue to follow the law. As for the OPRA requests, the emails/documents are reviewed as they are received. Mr. Siciliano stated that that he is not going to answer a question on the meaning or intent of an email but he can categorically state that no illegal action was taken with regards to the local public contract law.
Mr. Burrell asked Mr. Siciliano if his office was involved in the procurement process and reviewed the information.
Mr. Siciliano stated yes.
Mr. Duff stated that at the last meeting Mr. Siciliano answered a question indicating that he was not aware if there was a company that could provide all services. If Mr. Siciliano was involved in the process, he would have known that.
Mr. Siciliano stated that he does not believe he made that statement.
Mr. Duff asked if there were contracts above $44,000 that included both services. Mr. Siciliano stated that he does not recall the answer.
Mr. Duff stated that Mr. Catrambone and Mr. Burrell both had some very telling remarks while campaigning. Mr. Duff stated that Mr. Catrambone mentioned he was eager to build his dedication to transparency in new ways. Residents have been asking questions for weeks and they haven’t answered them, there have also not been any comments from other members of Council. Mr. Duff stated that he will get the remainder of the emails and then he is done. This will be the last time they see him for a while.
Barbara Littleton stated that she is trying to get a little more information on how Council runs. Ms. Littleton asked if the Township has an audit done every year.
Mr. Burrell stated yes, we have an audit completed every year and they are all posted online.
Ms. Littleton stated that she wants to get back to the question she asked at the last meeting. Were there quotes, bid, proposals in the initial process that were above the $44,000 threshold.
Mr. Burrell stated that the questions was answered at the last meeting. The RAC reached out to vendors in an information gathering process to figure out what was available in the budget. We then receive three quotes for the sound and three for the video. This was all done in consultation with the Solicitor’s office. Mr. Burrell stated that it has been well established that there are quotes over $44,000.
Ms. Littleton stated that in her opinion with quotes over $44,000, we should have gone through the bidding process and that was not done.
Mr. Burrell stated that we did not go to public bid, we awarded the contracts through a non-fair and open process.
Ms. Littleton stated that hopefully they can see how alarming that is for the citizens of Delran. We have been coming here for weeks and have not been getting answers. We are not trying to attack anyone, we are just trying to understand the process. Ms. Littleton stated that she understands the Solicitor has stated that nothing illegal happened but she wants to see the documents.
Mr. Burrell stated that he doesn’t take any offense to the questions. We refer to the Solicitor to guide us through the purchasing process.
Ms. Littleton stated that there is an email from Colin Rafferty that there is an issue with the bid threshold. She asked what that means.
Mr. Burrell stated that he is not able to answer that question.
Ms. Littleton stated that with the emails, you can see why the residents have these questions.
Ron Vandermark stated that he has been involved in the Fire Department for over twenty-eight years. In watching what has been going on, everyone up here has been quiet. Numerous questions have been asked and not answered. Mr. Vandermark stated that the arrogance that comes from the Solicitor is unbelievable. We are taxpayers in this town asking legitimate questions, why can’t they be answered.
Mr. Burrell stated that as answered before, the whole process was done in with the advice of the Solicitor’s office and they indicated that everything was done above board and followed the law.
Scott Ducko stated that the email from Colin Rafferty to Starlight stating that the Township Solicitor directed him that it must be two separate contracts. Mr. Ducko asked why it had to be two separate contracts.
Mr. Burrell stated that he does not know what email he is referring too.
Mr. Ducko stated that Mr. Siciliano stated that the emails were provided in a sequential format from when they requested but Colin’s emails were requested after everyone else so that is not the case.
Mr. Siciliano stated that an OPRA request for emails were sent to the Clerk, once the emails requested are provided to the Clerk, they are sent to the Solicitor for review. The first emails received were reviewed and sent back to the Clerk to produce.
Ms. Ducko stated they are sent out in a way that best suits your needs. Mr. Burrell stated that is not the intent and all emails with be provided.
Ms. Ducko asked what is bid splitting and what does it mean when the Solicitor orders that the contracts must be separated.
Mr. Burrell stated that the Solicitor’s office indicated there was no bid splitting.