Some members of the public expressed concern about the conduct of two Ceres councilmen who jumped into a discussion about a contract for copier machine service which did not go to one councilman's employer.
The Ceres City Council voted 3-2 to award Lucas Business Systems a five-year lease and maintenance contract for four copiers to be used at City Hall and at the Public Works Department. The new machines replace ones that are five years old.
Three companies bid for the contract, including Mo-Cal Office Solutions, which employs Vice Mayor Ken Lane.
Councilman Bret Durossette flagged the contract, first asking where Lucas is located. Wells replied that Lucas was a large company with an office in Modesto. Durossette then asked how long Mo-Cal had been serviced the city's copiers. City Engineer Toby Wells replied that Mo-Cal had a five-year lease.
"Can I ask why we're going with somebody else? Were they cheaper?" asked Durossette.
Wells explained that the city went with a ranking system that proved to be helpful to other agencies. The three companies were ranked by rates and fees, quality of the proposal, work plan, qualifications, experience and referrals and personnel and staffing. Wells gave Lucas a ranking of 97.1 percent, Zoom Imaging Solutions, Inc., an 81.8 percent rating and Mo-Cal Office Solutions a 72.8 percent ranking. Wells also said Lucas had the lowest price at $1,100 per month.
Durossette said that Jack Adrian, the owner of Mo-Cal, called him and wanted to talk about losing the contract.
"I'm not an expert on copiers but he's under the belief that we will be paying more money than what we should be, although it might look like Lucas or Zoom Imaging Solutions," said Durossette. He said Mo-Cal quickly services all copiers at Ceres High School where Durossette is employed.
"It's pretty clear Lucas did an outstanding job putting a proposal together," said Wells in defense. "Their price, once again, was the lowest one of the three. The equipment they specified we felt very comfortable with. It clearly was the best proposal."
After commenting that Mo-Cal was a small "mom and pop shop" that employs "a lot of Ceres people," Durossette asserted "I don't like the 60-month thing ... I'd like to see may a 12-month thing and come back to it."
Wells said five-year leases tend to be more cost-effective for copiers, not yearly contracts.
Lane then weighed in, saying that while he works for Mo-Cal, he doesn't deal with the copiers used by the city.
"I know you're not an expert but I know that I am and what's best for the city," Lane said to Wells. "I have a problem with anything that we do like this when ... every company has fluff here, fluff there." He said he wanted the council to be able to see the equipment that was specified in the contract.
Lane said he didn't speak to anyone with his company about the contract, saying "I didn't even know this was taking place."
When the contract came to a vote Lane and Durossette were outvoted by Mayor Chris Vierra, Councilman Eric Ingwerson and Councilman Mike Kline.
Some who listened to the exchange questioned the connections the two councilmen have to the company and why they didn't abstain from voting. Don Cool specifically felt it was inappropriate for Durossette to do his company's bidding and for Lane not abstaining from a vote affecting his employer.
"I was concerned how they were beating Toby up," said Cool. "They give him the responsibility to do the bidding and he has always been a fountain of information and does his homework and he seems like a very intelligent individual."
Cool said while technically Lane has no direct financial benefit from the outcome of the contract, he points out that Vierra has recused himself from voting on matters when it has involved his employer, StanTech Engineering.
"He always takes himself out of voting if it's anything close to his company. It just doesn't look right not to."