Mayor Frank Picozzi said yesterday that a “decades long” practice of maintaining the confidentiality of vendors awarded contracts to run police and fire promotional tests would come to an …
Mayor Frank Picozzi said yesterday that a “decades long” practice of maintaining the confidentiality of vendors awarded contracts to run police and fire promotional tests would come to an end.
The practice, which Picozzi said started in 2007, came as a surprise to the council and the mayor on Monday when the Finance Committee was asked to recommend that the Council approve a $20,000 bid to an undisclosed vendor to administer firefighter promotional exams.
Picozzi didn’t have an explanation as to why the vendor was kept confidential, but said "I don't like it. We're not going to do it that way anymore."
Reached by phone on Wednesday afternoon former Mayor Scott Avedisian said that he doesn’t remember that occurring.
“I don’t remember that all,” said Avedisian. “I’m not suggesting that’s not true I just don’t know what the rational was.”
On Wednesday Picozzi said that the City Solicitor informed the Administration that it wasn’t the legal or proper way of doing the bid process.
The issue surfaced Monday night when Warwick watchdog Rob Cote asked who the vendor was.
Assistant Fire Chief Jason Umbenhauer said vendors were confidential in order to prevent possible tampering of the test.
“If one of the people taking the exam knew the vendor, they potentially could be given test results,” said Umbenhauer.
Cote responded, “That's problematic because if you think that the vendor or the participants taking the tests would do something to try to contact the vendor that leads to a host of different questions.”
Cote asked who was given the contract for the last testing.
“I can’t give that information because that’s an active bid and we still have promotional exams going on with that vendor,” said Umbenhauer.
Cote then asked if the vendor could’ve been a former or current employee with the City of Warwick. He pointed out that it wouldn’t be allowed under the city charter.
“That's a hypothetical that I don’t feel comfortable having the chief answer,” said Finance Committee Chair Tim Howe.
Cote also questioned if there was anywhere in the City Charter that says a bid can be held confidential. He said based on his research he didn’t see anything related to it.
“There's nowhere in the City Charter that allows that, "said Cote.
It was also pointed out by Cote that if anyone on the Council had any kind of relationship with the company that won the award then they would have to recuse themselves. Since the bids were anonymous there isn’t a way for the public to know if there is a conflict of interest or not.
Howe said that it would be an ethics violation if an individual member of the Council knew they had a conflict of interest but didn’t report it.
“That would be my understanding of it,” said Howe.
Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur said that he didn’t see any reasons to keep the names of bidders secret.
On the issue of possible tampering if the identity of the company was revealed, Ladouceur said “I think there are some very strict laws and very strict penalties that govern that type of activity or behavior.”
“I don’t see any argument for keeping them private,” said Ladouceur.
Eventually Council Solicitor William Walsh asked that the item be held for a future meeting so additional legal research could be done. McMichael said that it wouldn’t be an issue for the department since the bid in question doesn’t expire until the end of June.
In response to Monday’s meeting Mike Carreiro, the Union President for IAFF Local 2748 which represents the Warwick Firefighters said in a statement “we do not give any weight to implications that are not supported by any facts. In that, the administration and the purchasing department deal with the testing company.”
“Our testing process is secure. Our members study for months on end in preparation for a promotional test, and the tests are sealed until (the) day of the test. The legitimacy and integrity of our testing process is sound,” said Carreiro. “This isn’t the first time that Rob Cote and Ed Ladouceur has maliciously attacked this local and its members. And just like every other unfounded allegation, this to will have no true legitimacy as the facts play out.”
The debate during Monday’s meeting didn’t end with whether or not the Council should award bids to companies that aren’t disclosed to them.
Ladouceur said that he has been on the Council for 10 years and never encountered a classified bid.
“I have never seen a bid come in where the vendors were unidentified,” said Ladouceur.
Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi said that he has seen a handful of bids with confidential bidders and that every time it has come up in the past the Council has been told that it is allowed.
“I would be curious to (see) the outcome of this,” said Sinapi.
According to the Aug. 30 Council bid package the Police Department sought a $24,000 bid for the department’s promotional exams. The name of the company was confidential. One former Council member Bob Cushman in a letter to the editor said “this bid process puts a black eye on Warwick and shows a potential level of corruption not only between Warwick Firefighters and the bidders, but potential corruption from Mayor Picozzi and the Warwick City Council.” The full letter can be found on page 11.
Picozzi said on Wednesday afternoon that Cushman was a Council member when the practice occurred.
“No one’s trying to slip one by the goalie,” said Picozzi.
In response to an inquiry if the names of the confidential vendors past and present would be released publicly the Mayor’s office provided the names. The names of the vendors before 2010 weren’t revealed at this time.
The following vendors were awarded contracts for the fire department promotional exams through the confidential process:
6/8/2020-6/7/2022: Miami Dade College – School of Justice Assessment Center, Miami, Fla.
6/8/2018-6/7/2020: Miami Dade College – School of Justice Assessment Center, Miami, Fla.
6/8/2016-6/7/2018: Fire Service Testing Company, Inc., Apollo Beach Fla.
5/13/2014-5/12/2016: Fire Service Testing Company, Inc., Apollo Beach Fla.
5/13/2013-5/12/2014: Industrial Organizational Solutions (d.b.a, I/O Solutions, Inc.), Westchester, Illinois
2022 The Assessment Center – Miami Dade College 11380 NW 27th Ave Miami, Fla. 33167
2021 Fire Service Testing Company 1312 Apollo Beach Blvd, Apollo Beach, Fla. 33572
2020 Fire Service Testing Company
2019 Fire Service Testing Company
2017 I/O Solutions 1520 Kensington Rd, Oak Brook, Illinois 60523
2015 I/O Solutions
2012 I/O Solutions
2010 I/O Solutions
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