Department of da Fence
Bidder alleges Seaside unfairly treated his minority-owned business.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
A fence-building company is sour at the city of Seaside for flip-flopping on its bid requirements for a local project. But the City says the company’s got its chain link all in a bunch over an innocent mistake.
The scuffle centers on a bid to construct a 1,150-foot security fence and gates at the federal Defense Manpower Data Center on Gigling Road. The Department of Defense is footing the bill, but it has contracted with the City to design and award subcontracts for the project.
Six companies submitted bids by the Nov. 21 deadline. The lowest bid, from FenceCorp Inc., was for about $577,000; the second lowest, from Crusader Fence, for about $586,000; the third, from Golden Bay Fence Plus Iron Works, Inc., for about $595,000.
Seaside is required to select the lowest “responsible, qualified” bidder, says city engineer Carole Dawson. But instead of awarding the subcontract to FenceCorp at its Dec. 6 meeting, the City Council rejected all of the bids. City Attorney Don Freeman announced the bidding process would start over because of a glitch in the request for bids.
Though Freeman insists one has nothing to do with the other, the Council’s move seems to respond to a court challenge from a ticked-off bidder. Two days earlier, Golden Bay filed legal papers asking the judge to force the City to hand over the bid results and certain bidding policies.
Golden Bay threatened to formally protest the award if it fails to give preference to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises – companies owned by women or racial minorities. Although the original request for bids includes the so-called DBE requirement, the City waived it for the two lowest bidders, according to a declaration by Golden Bay attorney Paul Guerrero. Golden Bay is minority-owned and DBE certified.
City policy applies the DBE requirement to Seaside’s federally funded projects, according to Assistant City Manager Jill Anderson. But although the DOD will pay for DMDC’s new fence, the project isn’t federally funded, she says. Instead, it’s considered a basic cost to do business – a technicality she says exempts it from the federal DBE program.
The project’s lowest bidder, FenceCorp, is affiliated with Golden State Fence Company, which paid almost $5 million to settle federal allegations that it hired illegal immigrants to build part of the border fence with Mexico.
That sordid history is a component of Golden Bay’s complaint. “We didn’t want Osama bin Laden building this thing,” Guerrero says.
FenceCorp President Dale Marriott emphasizes that, although they share the same parent company, FenceCorp and Golden State have separate licenses. “We never had any illegals on any government project, ever,” he says.
He says that FenceCorp has done “every military [fencing] project” in California, including the fence around the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
Golden Bay’s threat to protest the DMDC award “kinda sucks,” he adds.
In legal documents filed Dec. 4, Golden Bay alleges that the City failed to respond to a Nov. 26 public records request. However, state law allows 10 business days to respond.
Dawson says city staff would have faxed the documents the day after Guerrero asked for them, but they paused when they received the formal records request. “The accusations that we didn’t give him the information immediately was false,” she says.
The City’s decision to reject all bids and start the process over fulfills several of Golden Bay’s demands. But the company is still waiting to see Seaside’s DBE policy and the complete bid details, Guerrero says. Dawson claims the requested records have been sent.
A court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 11.