Friday, June 14, 2013

Zito Sides With NorCo Council Over Stoffa "End Run"

From The Morning Call:
"We do not wish to castigate the county executive for his actions in this case," Zito said. "At loggerheads with County Council, the county executive unquestionably acted in what he believed to be the county's best interests by awarding the Gracedale medical transport contract to a qualified low-cost bidder, Lifestar. Nevertheless, we are constrained to disagree with his assertion of incontrovertible authority to take this unilateral action."
I have not read Judge Zito's Opinion and thus am in no position to agree or quarrel with it. Giving a County Council veto power over competitive sealed bids defeats the purpose of having them. But should this have been a competitive bid?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes.

And his decision is ridiculous and should be easily overturned on appeal by any judge with a modicum of knowledge of municipal bidding law. The process of fixing the idiocy of oounty judges who are either ignorant of the applicable law, or unwilling to apply it is very costly to taxpayers. Sadly, we've come to expect this sloppiness from our county's part-time judiciary.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have not seen the opinion. My guess is that Zito conckuded that cost was not the only factor with this contract, and thus it should have not been put out for bid. If this is how he ruled, his opinion will be unassailable on appeal.

Anonymous said...

Is his decision final or just a temporary restraining order? Let's hope the administration provides a response that may lift the order. Stoffa is doing the right thing for the taxpayers of the county.

Anonymous said...

bad for the autonomy of the exec

Anonymous said...

Let all the weasels who feel this service should go to the higher bidder cough up the differential and pay it out of their own pockets.

Anonymous said...

Before Stoffa decides to not listen to Council, twice, doesn't he have a legal opinion to go on by a solicitor or a legal committee made up of council members? I would like to have seen what the solicitor or the legal committee would have suggested. It is a shame to waste this kind of money.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Stoffa has a Solicitor, and he listens to him, not Lamont McClure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This decision can be appealed, and in view of the possible litigation from Lifestar over this mess, Stoffa may feel he has no choice.

Anonymous said...

What exactly would Lifestar sue over? The RFP process did not go there way and it is not a rubber stamp. Council can refuse to do business with them. With or without cause. They rules are clearly written. Stoffa's end around does not change those facts. No one has said what grounds they have to sue.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Some of you are just so incredibly stupid. The RFP process did go Lifestar's way. Twice. In both occasions, Council rejected the recommendation. Nothing in the Admin Code addresses what happens if an RFP that is recommended is continually rejected and the Exec disagrees. Yet another reason why McClure's Legal and Judicial Committee, which has not met in nearly 4 years, should be a tad more on the ball.

Anonymous said...

z is a bigger ass then all of council combined

Lighthouse said...

As I have commented on here before, I think Council was being hypocritical to its mandate to "save Gracedale" by repeatedly siding with the highest bidder. This bid was for simple transport services. Going with Naz. Ambulance for roughly an extra quarter million dollars (a slap in the face to workers who had agreed to give backs to help the cause of saving Gracedale) was wrong. Perhaps every Councilperson had their own reasons: political expediency while running for election, to genuinely believing they are "saving" Naz Ambulance (with other people's money) without appreciating how that justification drives another nail in Gracedale's coffin unitentionally.

Unfortunately, however, Stoffa did not just go with the sealed bid in the first place (rather than round three) because he forced Council into a corner that would have precedent-setting value. So in the power play of checks and balances, Council almost had no choice but to spend even more taxpayer monies to challenge this in court.

There will be some winners, but the tax payers are not among them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lighthouse, You basically hit this on the head. I would add that some Council members, like Ken Kraft, genuinely felt that Lifestar was a bad choice. His lowball argument was quite persuasive. Moreover, the Nazareth employees came to meetings on their own while Lifestar paid their people to be there.

Anonymous said...

Why did Zito hear this case anyway ? Isn`t Council his former employer? This is where his natural allegiences are anyway. No wonder citizens don`t trust their governments to do the right thing. So many decisions, inclding those in the courts are based on politics and relationships and not what is best for the people. This is a prime example. Who assigns judges Bernie do you know ?

Anonymous said...

Kraft`s argument can be used for any intended contract put out for bid. It is baseless. If a contractor cannot meet the intentions of the contract it is severed. Maybe the requirement should be at least 3 responders are necessary and the middle bid is accepted. This is just as stupid as Kraft`s union spiced argument.

Anonymous said...

If Council were smart they would have realized that Stoffa took them off the hook and tossed them back into their vernal pool. Now Gracedale administration has been put on notice that their future cost cutting suggestions may not be supported by county council-- a real bad message to send. Premier going into year 3 wont last the 5 years and Gracedale will continue to need more budget transfusions of county dollars as Stoffa predicted. Gracedale is a money pit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:38,

A case like this would be assigned by the President Judge. If either side or the Court thought there might be a conflict, they would ask for a judge from another county. Since Judge Zito could not benefit from his ruling in this matter, he has no conflict as a matter of law.

Now it is true that, several years ago, he was Council's Solicitor. You might think that would prejudice him in their favor, but that's just not the way lawyers or judges think.

Let me tell you that when Zito was Solicitor, he was known for giving advice that Council did not want to hear. In fact, McClure wanted him removed and replaced with a lawyer who is more malleable. There are one or two occasions when Council did something contrary to Zito's advice, and they ended up looking pretty bad.

In Northampton County government, lawyers have a reputation for telling Councils what the law is, as opposed to what Council wants to hear.

If anything, Judge Zito would have more reason to stick it to Council than rule in their favor.

There is no doubt in my mind that Judge Zito called this matter the way he saw it, and was influenced only by the law.

I am critical of our judges when they try to be architects or county executives, but I have a deep respect for the way they decide cases. I say this as someone who has been in front of them, and who has both won and lost.

I am sure that Exec. Stoffa and his Solicitor, Danny Spengler, feels the same way.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If Council were smart they would have realized that Stoffa took them off the hook and tossed them back into their vernal pool"

This is certainly true. Stoffa was willing to take the heat for a controversial decision.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Kraft`s argument can be used for any intended contract put out for bid. It is baseless."

Not really. It was a very low bid, and Ken felt with some justification that it was a "lowball" bid designed to drive Nazareth out of business. He can read a contract better than any Council member I've ever seen and asks very probing questions. That serves Council well.

Is he right? I think it merited more investigation. But unlike Council, I felt the Executive had the authority to award the bid himself.

Anonymous said...

Zito is the guy that let the Bethlehem street light scammers out of state prison on a technicality! Its time for Sletvold to be seated as Judge.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this another case like the one "Morganelli vs Stoffa" over the pay raise deal? Of course it is. A technically in the personnel rules (drafted by Stoffa and never approved by Council) opened the door for the Courts to rule against the administration. In this case, a part of the administrative code adopted by Council "by ordnance", gave the courts the basis to make this ruling. The Morganelli ruling was wrong, This ruling got it right.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Why ask the question if you know the answer?

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:43, in other words, he followed the law. So will Sletvold.

Anonymous said...

Lifestar will put Nazareth out of business and will jack up there price next bid. Do some research it happens all the time. Council did the right thing. Stoffa wrong again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

People murder each other all the time, too. The question is whether there is any evidence to support the proposition that Lifestar has in the past low-balled a competitor, driving it out of business. Have any?

Bernie O'Hare said...

The only thing i have found is that Lifestar itself has been low-balled.

http://www.sent-trib.com/local-news/lake-township-trustee-critical-of-dispatch-costs

Anonymous said...

I mistrust any decision from Zito. He is rying to do an end run around he PA constitution to keep his jon pas age 70. He is not exactly a upholding the law when it benefits his pocket book.

Let's seat Sletvold and hten do some rulings on this stuff

C.P.M. said...

If Nazareth goes out of business as a result of this one lost quote --- too bad. My bet is that they will maintain their other business and survive. If they do go out of business, some other organization will be there to offer a competitive quote when the Lifestar contract expires. That's life in the real world.

Anonymous said...

Bernie it's funny that you say that's all you found. A simple google search ambulance companies put out of business by lifestar will show otherwise. Nazareth provides quality care and the care of the elderly should not be lowballed. Stoffa has already screwed the lowest paid employees at Gracedale while the highest paid have given nothing back. Funny how the ones who work the hardest give the concessions and the rest give nothing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You have failed to provide one link establishing that lifestar used a lowball bid to put another carrier out of business.

You are ebtitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. It appears to me that you would prefer to argue on outright lies.

No wonder ypu hate Stoffa.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa is a mess. Why doesn't he just go home and sleep there.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Still have not provided a link. Only hatred. Anonymously.