City Auditor: 'It should have been bid' - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City Auditor: 'It should have been bid'

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- A local watchdog group is fed up with Chattanooga leaders and plans to take its complaints to the top.

The issue: a city contract, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for police computers and how it seems the work simply landed in one company's lap.

In a public hearing, City Auditor Stan Sewell revealed an $800,000 contract was not bid correctly.

"Definitely. According to the city code, it should have been bid," Sewell says. "It should have been advertised and bid."

Tuesday's meeting was called after questions were raised about the 3-year-old contract with Excalibur Integrated Systems.

The company provided computers for patrol cars.

"Everyone has the right to face their accusers and I'm wondering where the accusers are," Councilwoman Carol Berz says.

April Edison represents a group of anonymous vendors and a local watchdog group.

"I did not find the information," Edison says. "The information is coming to us from the public, from other vendors who are too afraid to come forward."

She alleges the city broke state and federal law.

"They excluded all minority businesses from competing for jobs, they omitted all small businesses from competing because it was an exclusive club," says Edison.

But council members call it a "minor issue."

The city's attorney says no laws were broken.

"He reassured us that compliance had been with all the laws and the ethics also," says Council Jack Benson.

Other council members had tough questions for city employees.

"I think the question is insulting, but go ahead," Mayor's Chief of Staff, Dan Johnson says.

"Would you tell me if you've received anything of value over $50 from either Mr. Jenkins or his company," Deborah Scott asks.  

"No," Johnson replies.

"I think what we've done is we've raised this to the level of almost a kangaroo court," Berz says.

And Edison isn't stopping here. She's filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"It's about bypassing bid law and they are guilty," Edison says.

Council members decided not to follow up on the issue, or to hear from Edison in Tuesday night's meeting.

But the city has adopted a new manual on how to follow purchasing procedures.

It includes a mandate to advertise and bid on all contracts.

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