Sunland attorney says hiring followed bidding process
The state auditor recently accused Sunland Park of violating the Procurement Code by entering into a no-bid contract for legal services, but the city’s attorney says that isn’t true – and provided documents to back up his claim.
The recently released special audit of Sunland Park accuses the city of violating the state Procurement Code by failing to seek bids when it entered into a contract with Santa Fe attorney Frank Coppler for legal services.
But Coppler says the city did seek bids – and he provided the request for proposals and his firm’s bid to back up his claim.
Coppler has long been the city’s attorney. The audit notes that the council opted to continue Coppler’s contract on Jan. 30, 2009, according to minutes of the city council meeting.
“Coppler functioned as an independent contractor, but the City never procured his services through a formal bid process,” the audit states. “The City paid Coppler a total of $481,378.86 in legal fees, from general and restricted funds, during fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012.”
A bidding process that complied with the state’s Procurement Code and the city’s purchasing regulations was required for such a large contract, the audit states.
In an e-mail, Coppler told NMPolitics.net that State Auditor Hector Balderas “does not have all the facts.” While the city may no longer possess documents showing there was a competitive bidding process – even though it’s required by law to maintain them – Coppler provided documents. You can read them here.
You’ll see a request for proposals at that link. It states that proposals were due by Jan. 19, 2009, but the date the RFP was issued isn’t clear. You’ll also see Coppler’s proposal, which is dated Jan. 8.
Coppler also sent a copy of the agreement between his firm and the city, along with an e-mail indicating that his office sent the proposed professional services agreement to the city on Jan. 27 – three days before the council voted to finalize the agreement.
Coppler also sent a copy of another request for proposals issued March 1, 2010. He told NMPolitics.net that, even though the 2009 agreement is good until 2013, “at that time we understood they may wish to reconsider a full-time city attorney or a different contract attorney. But the city did not act on that suggestion,” so the 2009 agreement between the city and Coppler remains in effect.
Not included in the documents Coppler sent NMPolitics.net are any that indicate if others submitted proposals in 2009 or 2010, scoring sheets ranking bidders, or advertisements indicating how widespread the requests for proposals were distributed. Those aren’t documents Coppler would necessarily have in his possession, even as city attorney. They were required to be maintained by the city.
Coppler ended his e-mail with this statement about the recent change in governance in Sunland Park:
“This March, we informed the city of all of the pending files that we are handling and their status and pointed out that since the March elections have caused a change in administration, notwithstanding our contract running for another year, the city is free to choose other counsel. The city has not responded to our invitation to secure other counsel and we have a statutory responsibility to continue our services until the city selects a successor.”
Coppler indicated that he has also provided the documents to the district attorney, who is investigating.
Leave a response
You must be logged in to post a comment.