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Friday, July 06, 2007

Norco Council Solicitor: County Exec Not Bound by Council's $1.5 Million Boo Boo

Northampton County Council has attempted to short circuit the bidding process for the county's computer services. It refused a reasonable request to allow the Stoffa administration to start anew because of technical problems with two bids. That left the county with only one, very high, bid on the table. This will end up costing taxpayers $1.5 million unless rectified.

Claiming council had abused its fiduciary duty to taxpayers, Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle has filed suit to set aside council's arbitrary action. "We've got to do what's right for the taxpayers." A hearing is scheduled today.

It should be a quickie.

Yesterday, council's own very able solicitor, Lenny Zito, handed down an opinion that takes the wind out of council's sails. I was able to get my grimy little hands on a copy. It fell out of the ventilating system. And now I'll share it with you. "It is my opinion that the County Executive has the power to reject this bid as not being in the best interests of Northampton County notwithstanding the action of County Council."

Holy schneikes!

Zito relies on the Home Rule Charter, which gives the exec broad powers. His opinion is that the Administrative Code can't diminish that power. In essence, council legislates and the county executive runs the shop.

So it looks like the Stoffa administration will get a second crack at those bids no matter what edicts come down from the county council star chamber. To be on the safe side, Angle will ask the court to adopt Zito's opinion as a declaratory judgment.
Update: At this afternoon's brief hearing, President Judge Freedberg agreed to continue Angle's claim so that Northampton County Council solicitor Leonard Zito could review his recent opinion with members of council. While conceding that courts give great deference to the legislative branch, Freedberg poignantly noted, "I'm not going to dismiss this." If council refuses to accept Zito's opinion, Ron may list the matter for further review.


Anonymous said...

Isn't the Zito opinion something like I suggested in a recent post here, but that I wasn't certain?
The Exec, maybe, could/should refuse to sign off on such stuff or something like that, is what I opined. No matter, just thanks for the update. larry@kisslinger.com

Blah Society said...

My question went unanswered on a previous post, so I'll ask it again...

How much lower do you think the bids will be the second time around? Any projections?

Bernie O'Hare said...


You and at least one other person made that suggeestion. my view was that we were in a stalemate. The Admin Code provides you must obtain a resolution from county council if you want to reject bids. But Zito claims that provision in the Admin Code is trumped by the Home Rule Charter, which gives the exec broad powers.

I was pretty much looking exclusively at the admin code. For those of you who suggested that this resolution could not bind the exec, you were right and I was wrong.

Bernie O'Hare said...


I'd have no idea how much lower the bids would be. The only thing I know for sure is that all three bids will be lower because the bidders themselves said as much. I would not expect the high bid to be over $9 MM.

Blah Society said...

If that's the case, I would guess the low bid to be around $7.2 million.

Anyone want to start a pool? LOL. Winner takes me to White Castle...

Anonymous said...

re-bid is always entirely in order for consideration, for one reason or another, especially when you only have one final bid, is my opinion. Bernie is probably correct at 9 Mil. Another point is the bidder's now know what each other has already bid. Bidder's must decide if they want to bid the same or take less profit and bid lower. If they all bid exact the same as before, we're down to 7 Mil when bids filled out correctly. Lastly, even if NorCo re-bid saves us only 15 cents is still the right thing to do. larry@kisslinger.com

Blah Society said...

I agree, Larry. Every penny counts...

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernardo, you opinonated SOB, I believe Council's own solicitor made the point I was making during our previous corresspondence. I agreed with your take on the Administrative Code but at the end of the day it's all about the Charter. The Home Rule Charter is the trump card and it does give the Executive broad power in this contract area. Even with limitations Councul passed during the Reibman Admin., only the County Executive can sign a Contract for the county. So Stoffa has the power and the msm permission, will he do it? Will he stand up to Council? Past Executives have and some were praised and some were demonized. Lets see who blinks first. I don't have the same uber high opinion of Stoffa you do but I hope he finally shows some backbone on this. Christ, its not like the press will beat him up, the Excess will probably give him a trophy.
Just some trash talk. What I am hoping is to find out if there is more to this issue. Hopefully someone on Council will give a clear logical reason for their actions and not just spinelessly change with the wind like Dowd. What does the paper see in that dude. Oh thats right he's a holy Repub. You are still the man BO, you are the Bobby Gunther Walsh of the blogesphere. I would comment on the Jim Martin deal but I enjoy my life.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 2:21,

Bobby Gunbther Walsh?? You really know how to hurt someone.

I believe Stoffa will reject the bids on his own. We'll see. I'm unaware of any exec from the past who had this situation.

LVDem said...

ah, norco... you guys cause greater confusion with every passing day.

Anonymous said...

If there's a lower bid, maybe the county can take that $1.5 million they save and put in some new carpets for the fiscal affairs dept.........mold, mildew, and duct tape just doesn't really sit well with the workers, and you can't believe the comments the taxpaying public leave about it too!!! Ha, to think about the morons making the decisions about the county's money.......luxury on one end, and disgust on the other...........if the common man can see the stupidity why can't they??? Thanks Bernie..........nice to see that some people can view the illegalities of the county and other local governments and make them public.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, it really kills me that they were just willing to kiss that money goodbye when even ACS claimed it could come in lower. And you're right, Fiscal Affairs is the one office that got nothing from the courthouse expansion.

Anonymous said...

Yes, our floor didn't get a thing with the expansion..........I was wondering if anyone has any idea WHY, since our floor sees a lot of public passing through it??.....or is this just another case of logic being thrown out the window??

Anonymous said...

It galls me as a businessman who benefitted from the LVEDC staff assistance, that the same politocos who criticize them for doing their job, can shamelessly throw away thousands of dollars in an insider bid deal.

The county funds many non profits and only singled out one for scrutiny. Why? Because they make the county ED staff look like amatuers. Maybe LVEDC should use the county bid system and sole source everything to insiders.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:56,

I have many criticisms of LVEDC myself, but I sure as hell wouldn't want it to be more like Northampton County Council.

But let me correct you. It was not thousands, but nearly $1.5 million that was thrown away, just like that.

Fortunately, the council solicitor has ruled the exec is not bound by a politically motivated and mean-spirited council. The motivation should always be "the best interests of the county."

Anonymous said...

Do Da word facetious ring tha bell????

LVEDC may have been founded by the ole boy network but the work they do is great from my vantage point. They helped me get financing for my business and it didn't cost me a penny. Ther are OK in my book/

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm glad you like the LVEDC. You are one of the few, the proud, etc. I'm disturbed by the high-handed way they make decisions, but local government is certainly no trend-setting example.

LVEDC needs to be more transparent and accountable. There are, as I understand things, two factions. I believe the side favoring transparency is slowly winning the day.

Incidentally, I'm not interested in you telling me who you are, but I's appreciate knowing whether your biz is in LC or NC.

A common complaint is that LVEDC favors LC, but I think that is a parochial argument.

Anonymous said...

Well this is just another case of the rules only apply to those people that the rules apply to.

In other words, they are going to do what they want to do anyway. I agree it is a lot of money for a single bidder, and the taxpayers should not be stuck if there is an alternative. However, is it legal? Sealed bids are now opened, and everyone knows what the prices are. What is the point of having a sealed bid? If there is none then toss every bid you get to chew down the price.