Members of Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board were given guidelines Tuesday for acting as the selection committee ranking tennis provider bids.
Wellington’s current tennis provider, Tommy Cheatham Inc., was granted a one-year contract with four one-year renewal options by the Wellington Village Council in 2010.
When the contract came up for renewal last year, Councilman Howard Coates asked to renew it subject to putting the matter out to bid this year. The current contract expires Sept. 30.
Three companies plan to bid on the item, including Cheatham, who has run the center since it was founded in the late 1990s.
Parks & Recreation Advisory Board members will be tasked with ranking the proposals and making a recommendation to the council.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Wellington staff had advice for the board.
“Do not discuss the matter with other selection committee members or any other employee outside the purchasing department or myself,” Purchasing Manager Ed De La Vega said. “I want to make that perfectly clear from the onset, because it could jeopardize the integrity of the bid.”
Village Attorney Jeff Kurtz noted that as the selection committee, members of the board are bound by Florida’s Sunshine laws. Because of this, he said, discussion must only be done at public meetings.
“You should not and you cannot discuss it amongst yourselves,” he said, adding that committee members need to be aware of whom they talk to about the issue, noting that the choice is expected to be controversial.
“You have to be careful of intermediaries, meaning people who you both know, coming to you,” Kurtz said. “There may be temptation for someone to come up to you and say, ‘I know these people, and they are the best choice.’ The best advice I can give you is not to talk to anyone about this — not your wife or your kid or anyone else. You do not know who they might know.”
Kurtz said that committee members should report it if someone attempts to offer their opinion on the matter.
Former Mayor Tom Wenham, a member of the board, said that he had been contacted by e-mail by a Wellington resident about the matter. “It was e-mailed to my home e-mail,” he said.
Kurtz said that committee members should try to minimize contact with people looking to influence their choice.
“As a selection committee member,” he said, “you will have the opportunity to interview the proposers if you desire. You all are making your own judgments.”
Wenham also pointed out that there was a letter printed in the Town-Crier regarding the issue.
Kurtz said that sometimes that would be beyond their control. “There are things that you will be able to access that we can’t control,” he said. “We would ask you to try not to pay attention to it.”
De La Vega noted that there were five proposal criteria with which the board was to evaluate the proposals.
“Once you review the proposals or have interviews with the proposers,” he said, “you will be asked to score each one of them based on this criteria.”
The criteria include experience with similar programs, qualifications, program approach, cost and price, and references.
Kurtz noted that committee members would not come under fire for their choices.
“As a selection committee member,” he said, “no one is entitled to ask you why you scored in a particular manner. These are individual judgments you make according to your experience.”
Kurtz noted, however, that in the past, selection committees have had issues when they rank each proposer so favorably, looking to be kind, that the proposal they thought was best does not get chosen.
“Everyone likes to be nice,” he said. “But sometimes nice ends up not differentiating things.”
Kurtz explained that if a member scores each proposal very closely in an attempt to be kind, the decision for who gets the bid can come down to one or two points, not indicating a clear winner.
“If you get to a situation where you have sat down and given these folks their scores,” he said, “you should have a definite idea in your mind as to which one should be the best. When you add up all the points, it may turn out that based on your scoring, the one you thought was the best ended up ranking second. There are circumstances where this happens.”
Kurtz stressed that the points allotted to the proposals for each criteria need to clearly reflect the applicant’s proposal.
“You need to differentiate,” he said. “Make sure that your gap between first and second reflects that. Instead of giving them, say 50 points and 49 points, you may want to think about giving them 50 points and 40 points.”
Board members agreed to schedule interviews with applicants on Monday, May 14, with a decision by the committee to be made before a new board is appointed on Tuesday, May 22. Interviews are closed to the public.