Vendor lacked insurance at time of contract

by Whitney Kenerly

In thecontract between Ben Holder and the City of Greensboro, terms were negotiatedfor an initial payment of $2,000 before Holder provided proof of liabilityinsurance.

Holderresponded to the RFP on June 19 and requested an hourly rate of $60, with 40hours pay required in advance. In his response Holder also negotiatedthat, “Upon award, liability insurance and business license will be provided.”

In theRFP posted by the City on June 13, The City required a copy of a localbusiness license and proof of liability insurance for every proposal inaddition to a letter summarizing experience, three professional references, andan hourly billing rate.

TheCity awarded a contract to Holder on June 30 under the terms of a $45 billingrate and a payment of $2,000 provided that Holder submit an initial Summary ofRecommendations for potential/proposed initial projects within 48 hours of theexecution of the agreement.

Holdersubmitted his Summary of Recommendations that day, and the City paid him $2,000on July 1.

Holderwas issued a certificate of liability insurance on July 10.

CommunicationsManager for the City of Greensboro Donnie Turlington said that it is within theauthority of the City to negotiate these types of contract stipulations.

“Standardpractice is what is in the best interest of the City,” said Turlington. “Inthis case, there were so few bidders for the contract that the City felt it wasin its best interest to move forward with the contracts.”

Turlingtonconfirmed that Holder was employed by the City to undertake projects betweentime of his awarded contract on June 30 and the start of his liabilityinsurance on July 10.

The RFPonly received responses from two bidders after posting the RFP to the officialcity website. According to Turlington, the City promoted the RFP morethan would be typical for such a project. Turlington attributes the lownumber of respondents to the fact that the work involved required a unique andspecific set of skills.

WhileTurlington also said that it is not unusual for contracts to be approved withina day of submittal, the short turnaround is raising some eyebrows.

“Thiscontract was shoved through,” said councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter. “This isthe perfect way to keep him off the blogs for six months.”

On July15 City Manager Jim Westmoreland emailed members of council addressing feedbackthat there were members who had concerns over the contract with Ben Holder, andthat there was a desire to speak about the manner publicly at the meetinglater that night. Westmoreland advised that council members bring theirconcerns to the City Manager’s office directly, rather than to speak publiclyabout the contract.

“Tothis end and so that we (your City team) might have the best opportunity tofully review and respond to your remaining questions and concerns, I wouldrespectfully request that Council first direct any remaining items regardingthe contract, services Ben Holder is currently providing to the City, and/orhis qualifications to provide the services to the City to me to review/respondto and then if the responses are not satisfactory, I will work with the Mayorand Interim City Attorney over the next week to schedule a closed session ofCouncil to discuss this matter prior to your July 29th work session(or a date before the work session, if the majority of Council wishes to call aspecial closed session or meeting to discuss),” said Westmoreland.

Abuzuaitersaid that a closed session might not be applicable in this scenario because theissue is not strictly related to personnel matters. The council hasdiscussed the matter publicly, and the option of a public Town Hall meetingabout the issue has been requested by council members.