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Questions Surround NAPA Auto Parts Contract

Updated: Sunday, May 11 2014, 02:53 PM CDT
SPRINGFIELD -- It's been almost a month since Springfield City Council approved a
contract with NAPA Auto Parts. The nearly $3.8 million dollar deal is
supposed to save the city money.

But now there are questions as to whether that contract should stand.

An
ordinance was signed by city leaders before city council approved the
agreement. The ordinance states that the city did not need to go through
the usual competitive bidding process because of a co-op with a
government purchasing agency in another state.

Now, it's uncertain whether that co-op actually exists and, if it does, whether that co-op can supersede city rules.

"Our
intent is not to deceive anybody. Our intent is to save the taxpayers
of Springfield a lot of money," Springfield Budget and Management
Director Bill McCarty said.

McCarty says contracting with NAPA
can save taxpayers roughly $500,000 a year if the auto parts store can
set up shop in the city's new consolidated garage.

Alderman
Frank Edwards says city council approved the NAPA contract based on a
purchasing agreement they were told the state has with the National
Joint Powers Alliance-- or NJPA-- in Minnesota.

"Well now we find out that link wasn't there," Edwards said.

Edwards says that changes everything.

"The
premise for the vote was based on how we got there. And now that's not
there so I believe your vote is null and void," Edwards said.

City
Attorney Todd Greenburg  declined Newschannel 20's request for an
on-camera interview and instead issued a statement that says, in part:
"City staff has filed a FOIA request with the state of Illinois to
either confirm or dispel any uncertainty regarding the relationship
between the state of Illinois and NJPA. However, even if it is
determined that the city staff was in error in assuming that the state
of Illinois has an intergovernmental agreement with NJPA it does not
change the fact that the city council legally approved the NAPA
contract."

McCarty agrees.

"They gave tacit approval of waiving the competitive sealed bidding process for this particular contract," McCarty said.

McCarty says if the city has to back track and open the bidding process to other companies it's going to waste taxpayer money.

"If
we have to go to an [Request For Proposal] then we've delayed this
process of the implementation of the consolidation and we continue to
forgo savings each and every week," McCarty said.

But Edwards
says that's a price that will have to be paid if the city's corporation
counsel didn't oversee the process the right way the first time around.

"Because
now what you're saying is whatever you can tell the city council to get
them to vote for a city project you can tell them and it doesn't matter
and then we vote and you go, 'Well you voted on it. That makes it
legal,'" Edwards said.

Alderman Joe McMenamin takes these
questions a step further. He says that even if that relationship between
Illinois and the Minnesota agency exists that is not enough to forgo
the competitive bidding process. McMenamin says the only times you can
legally avoid that process is if your agreement is federally-based or
based in Illinois.

City officials had hoped to have NAPA Auto
Parts in place inside the city's new garage by the summer but should
this contract have to be held and bidding have to take place that could
push the start date to the fall. Questions Surround NAPA Auto Parts Contract


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