A Million, uh no, 42 Little Pieces

The Truth: It’s kind of like a loose thread on a sweater; the more you pull, the more thread there is.  At least until you run out of sweater.

Split remodeling project draws scrutiny 

The Orange County Register

The Orange County facilities department split the controversial remodeling of Treasurer-Tax Collector Chriss Street’s office into dozens of small contracts, an action that may have violated state and county law.

Bob Wilson, a top facilities manager, said the department obeyed the law. But two county supervisors aren’t buying it.

“Either it’s a contrivance or it’s a coincidence,” Supervisor John Moorlach said. “And it looks more like a contrivance.”

“The (county) CEO is looking at it. We’re looking at it,” Supervisor Chairman Chris Norby said. “Any large project like this needs board oversight.”

The county facilities department split remodeling contracts totaling $318,082.89 into 42 purchase orders – most for $5,000 or less.

If any of those orders had been a dollar more, the facilities department would have had to seek competitive bids. If the department had treated the remodel as one project, it would have had to seek approval from the Board of Supervisors.

This story falls on the heals of a September 11th story by OC Register reporters Ronald Campbell and Peggy Lowe.  That story covered the investigation of Chriss Street’s involvement in a no bid contract that was awarded, but never signed, with a contractor Ware Malcomb to remodel the exterior of the Hall of Finance and Records building.

The September 11th article identified inconsistencies in memo’s and documents that Street had released in an effort to clear up concerns over his ability to manage his position in light of numerous scandals that lead the Orange County Employee’s Association and Supervisor Moorlach to call on Street to resign. Specifically the story indicated the probability that a June 22, 2007 memo asserting that the decision to choose Ware Malcomb was made on April 12, 2007 was drafted in order to fabricate a series of events that did not happen in order to relieve suspicion focused on Street.

Campbell’s Thursday afternoon web story further reports:

The top contractor, DH General Contractors of Huntington Beach, got 14 jobs for $109,000. ZE Construction of Reseda got seven jobs for $84,000. A&M Electric of Wildomar got seven jobs for $43,000. Seven other contractors split the remaining $82,000.

Asked specifically if the facilities department was trying to avoid competitive bidding, Wilson replied that the department “was in compliance with county contract policy and the formal bidding process.”

Wilson said the remodel was split into six projects and then into dozens of purchase orders “due to security issues, the desire to limit the impact of construction to daily operations” as well as the tight schedule.

Street’s spokesman, Keith Rodenhuis, said the treasurer followed the facilities department’s lead. “It’s not our area of expertise,” Rodenhuis said. “We defer to them.”

Hmmm, “the Treasurer followed the department’s lead;” where have I read something like that before?  Oh I know, it was August 18, 2007 in another story by Peggy Lowe covering the DA’s investigation of the Ware Malcomb contract.

Street, who has been in office just eight months, said investigators questioned him about an architectural contract for work on the building that houses his office, the Hall of Finance and Records. Street said only that his office sought guidance from the county’s Resources and Development Management Department and that it complied with the county procurement processes.

It is clear that there is much more thread left to unravel regarding the scandals of Chriss Street.  This latest revelation has the fingerprints of an elected official all over it, and the only elected involved is Chriss Street.

It is really time for the Board of Supervisors to cut the unraveling thread that binds the Orange County taxpayers to the unsupervised actions of the Supervisor Moorlach’s hand selected successor Chriss Street.