Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fixed price

Yesterday we took you through the saga of the never formed Trenton Employment Commission and the money spent ($23,000+) on Hill Consultants to coordinate Mayor Jackson's invisible Local Employment Initiative. There is so much wrong with that situation that we neglected to include one other little tiny problem that needs to be addressed.

On July 8, 2015 then director of Housing and Economic Development for the City of Trenton Monique King-Viehland prepared and sent a memo to city Business Administrator Terry McEwen. In that memo she recaps the legislative history behind the implementation of the Trenton Resident Employment Policy. She mentions the request for proposal from parties interested in serving as a coordinator for the development and implementation of the program and that Hill Consultants was the only respondent to the RFP. King-Viehland then goes on to recommend awarding the one year, $50,000 contract to Hill Consultants.

There is another document that may have been attached to that memo (the docs as received from the clerk's office were somewhat disorganized). It's a tally sheet of sorts summarizing the results of the RFP process.

The document shows there was only one response to the RFP, that of Hill Consultants. Further down the page, there is a line for "Hourly rate" and that rate is clearly entered in as $100.00.

Interestingly, on the six invoices Charles Hill submitted to the city, the rate is posted as $125.00 per hour.

Nowhere in any of the documents provided in response to our OPRA request is there anything indicating a change in the hourly rate, up or down. Or a correction to the rate published on the tally sheet.

So what happened? How did the rate jump from $100 per hour to $125 per hour?

Was it a clerical error made while the purchasing department was preparing the RFP evaluation sheet? Was the rate always $125 an hour or did the consultant just arbitrarily and unilaterally increase his rate?

In an administration where financial missteps seem to occur with regularity, why would we be surprised if this friend and supporter of the mayor felt comfortable in increasing his billing rate and nobody questioned it.

Maybe if the city council decides to take this up with Mayor Jackson, they can find out why the hourly rate changed between the July and November of 2015.

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