Thursday, February 20, 2014
I'm Pretty Sure Zosky Contract Failed
Before I get into that, I have to warn you this report is flawed. I am only fluent in English and French.I have to go to language school if I intend to continue covering County Council.
You see, Executive John Brown speaks very little English, which probably explains why he has been reluctant to answer emails and phone calls. His language is Corporatese. I only understand about half of what he's saying. At yesterday's well-attended Finance Committee hearing, he made what appeared to be a passionate appeal for a no-bid $715,200 business managerial services contract with CPA Deana Zosky.
It was either that or a weather report.
On three occasions, he called Deana a "fresh set of eyes" to look over County finances. He said there was a "sense of urgency" in getting her aboard, that "we're burning cash rapidly" and that her services would be a "first pass attempt to where do we begin to close the gap," or something along those lines.
Council member Ken Kraft, who speaks English, was blunt. "Isn't that what we elected you to do?" he asked. He pointedly observed that we're spending $0.75 million for an opinion. Kraft also dismissed Solicitor Vic Scomillio's opinion that the contract was legal as flawed.
That when it got fun. A perturbed Glenn Geissinger asked Kraft,. "Your law degree comes from where?"
Unfortunately, there were no blows. Maybe next time.
Kraft later pointed out that he went to school for contractual law, damn it. I did send him a text last night, telling him he could borrow my law degree if he wants because I'm not using it.
Brown assured Council that he would accept responsibility for the success of the contract. "I am the one who's accountable," he said in English.
"If I spend a dollar and can save $2, all day long I'll do that," he reasoned, again in English.
Hayden Phillips and, more particularly, Peg Ferraro, were troubled by the fact that Brown looked nowhere beyond Zosky. Though Brown insisted he had to have someone who he trusted implicitly, he was not appointing a cabinet member. He was instead proposing a business consultant who would be working for the entire County, not just him.
"I like to shop," Peg said quite simply, referring to the lack of proposals.
Peg was also a bit put off that Zosky only lasted 23 months at the Allentown School District, yet is being proposed for a four-year contract. Zosky explained that she left because, contrary to what she had been told, she was never given control over a dime of the money needed to effect changes.
Zosky herself is a CPA who speaks fluent Accountantese. I got half of Brown had to say, but didn't understand a word she said, except that it sounded very convincing. She prepared detailed packets showing exactly what she would be doing, although it would take me four years to understand them. She clearly is exceptionally gifted.
Glenn Geissinger, a consultant himself, supported the deal. "We are foolish if we do not give the Executive $800,000 for an opportunity to save millions," he argued. Mat Benol agreed with Geissinger, claiming that we are "bleeding money"
But Scott Parsons responded that Brown would have a new set of eyes if he hired a Finance Director.
Hayden Phillips worried that Zosky might be using her RenewLV connections, where she sat on the board with Brown, to enrich herself.
"Has it parlayed any advantages?" he asked (He speaks Marine. Either that or French. They are very similar).
"Absolutely not," Zosky answered, noting her commitment to RenewLV is based solely in her beliefs in smart growth and urban revitalization.
When the matter was called for a vote of the Finance Committee, only Geissinger supported the contract. The other three members - Hayden Phillips, Bob Werner and Scott Parsons - voted No.
Ken Kraft and Peg Ferraro, nonvoting members, are opposed. Mat Benol supports the measure, and said so. Lamont McClure and Seth Vaughn, who do not sit on this committee, were not present.
Will this be voted on by Council tonight? It appears unlikely.
Based on the concerns raised by Council, I believe they would support a contract that was shorter in duration and that is arrived at by considering several proposals. Zosky need not be the low bid, as Brown seems to think.
On Tuesday, Brown stated during his news conference that he had the five votes he needed for this measure to pass. Based on my own discussion with council members and my ability to count to five, I knew he was wrong. His hubris needlessly embarrassed a qualified candidate, but his idea is a good one and might work if he acknowledges the concerns raised by Council.