The Wellington Village Council decided Monday to scrap all tennis bid proposals and start over after an appeal by A1A Tennis brought concerns about the committee selection process.
It was the decision to use the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) as the selection body made at an agenda review meeting in February that convinced the council to start the bid process over.
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig was the lone dissenter in the 4-1 vote.
“It should have been on a council meeting agenda,” Mayor Bob Margolis said.
In March, the council voted to put out a request for proposals for the Wellington Tennis Center and received three bids.
Tommy Cheatham Inc., which has run the facility since it was founded, was joined by A1A Tennis and the Mirzadeh Tennis Academy in bidding.
In May, the PRAB chose Cheatham as the provider, Village Attorney Jeff Kurtz told council members. He noted, however, that A1A Tennis had received the highest scores before the village’s local preference policy was applied.
“They chose A1A as the number one proposer, until you take into consideration local preference,” Kurtz said.
He said that put Cheatham on top. The policy is a point scale given to applications to encourage local bidding. Wellington-based businesses get the highest number of points, followed by those in Palm Beach County, and then those out of the county.
A1A Tennis appealed the decision, contending, among other complaints, that the PRAB was not appointed properly as the selection committee, that none of the respondents complied with the local preference policy, and that the guidance to the selection committee from staff caused them to score the proposals incorrectly.
Attorney Laurie Cohen, representing A1A Tennis, said that the bid should not have been awarded to Cheatham.
“It is our contention that there were a series of errors,” said Cohen, a former council member. “We believe that the recommendation made by the selection committee should not have been made in the way that it was, and that this council should either award the contract to A1A or reject all proposals and re-bid it.”
Cohen noted that Wellington’s purchasing manual states that a selection committee must be five members, appointed by either the village manager or the council, composed of two members with special expertise and three staff members.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said it was a policy decision to use members of the PRAB.
“In order to introduce the most objective selection committee, we would use the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board,” he said.
Cohen agreed that the purchasing manual could be amended with the council’s consent. This, she said, is what Kurtz believes happened at the Feb. 27 agenda review meeting.
Cohen said that the council is not supposed to take action at agenda review meetings. “They were never intended to be meetings at which any action or decision could be made by the council,” she said.
Furthermore, she pointed out that the notice letter sent out by Wellington states explicitly that the purpose of the agenda review is to discuss items on the Feb. 28 agenda with staff.
“It’s our contention that the agenda for that meeting did not have any item related to the tennis contract on it and that any decision made by the council at an agenda review meeting was improper,” he said.
Vice Mayor Howard Coates agreed. “For the most part, this council has not made decisions at agenda reviews,” he said.
Though he said that there was no question the council agreed to use the PRAB as its selection committee, it was not properly decided on.
“Where I have a problem is that we never formalized that with an agenda item and voted on it at the meeting,” Coates said. “This process was tainted from the beginning.”
But Gerwig said she thought the process had been objective. “I think it was carried out in a way that was fair and legal,” she said.
Coates made a motion to reject the contract and re-bid the item. Mayor Bob Margolis seconded the measure, which passed 4-1 with Gerwig dissenting.