Kenner — Kenner Mayor Michael Yenni and the City Council are squabbling again over a professional service contract, and this time, Yenni has vetoed a decision taken by the board.
Yenni announced Monday that he’d vetoed the council’s decision to award Cimsco Inc. of Metairie a two-year contract worth as much as $100,000 for the supply of PVC pipe and fitting to Kenner. The council voted April 18 to award that contract for a price of $82,277.
In a news release explaining the decision, Yenni said he vetoed the council’s decision because he felt the deal set a dangerous precedent for Kenner and could lead to litigation.
“The law is the law,” Yenni said. “I will not sign something that violates the bid law, puts the city at risk for costly litigation or compromises good government.”
Yenni’s decision was somewhat surprising because there was very little public discussion of the contract at the council’s past few meetings. Yenni’s administration initially asked the council to approve a deal with Quality Sitework Materials in February, but the board deferred a decision at Councilman Keith Reynaud’s request. After Reynaud reviewed the deal in discussions with the administration, he asked the board to defer the deal indefinitely, which effectively killed it.
Kenner’s previous piping contract was with F&G Services Inc., which recently merged with Quality Sitework Materials.
In his release, Yenni calls Cimsco’s bid “unresponsive” to the specifications set by the city when it requested bids. City Attorney Keith Conley said that Cimsco’s bid included an “escalation clause” that would have increased the cost of the deal in the second year. That sort of clause was banned in the bid documents. Conley said Quality Sitework Materials had actually referred the council’s decision to the state Attorney General’s Office for investigation.
However, Reynaud disagreed with the administration’s characterization of the contract. He said the bid specs asked contractors to provide any cost increases in the contract. Conley said another section told them to exclude that information, but Reynaud questioned why the city would give conflicting instructions.
“Why do you have it in there? Why don’t you take it out?” Reynaud asked.
Reynaud said Cimsco’s price is $14,000 less than what was proposed by Quality Sitework Materials. Even including the 3.5 percent increase the company proposed in the second year, the deal is still less than Quality Sitework’s proposal of $96,122.
“We felt the bid is responsive,” said Reynaud, who polled the council before getting unanimous approval for the Cimsco contract. “Every single item was lower.”
The two companies are vying to provide the city with piping for different projects and repairs on an “as-needed” basis. Although Reynaud likened the issue to discussions about the city’s professional service contracts, Yenni said the contract is a bid and therefore must follow state bid law. He said Reynaud is misinformed.
“Obviously the councilman doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Yenni said.
Reynaud began looking into the contract around the same time Kenner and the council were discussing a new professional service contract for the maintenance of the city’s electric generators. That included accusations of bid law violations from residents and multiple delays.
Reynaud said he believes it’s his job to review the city’s contracts and make sure they make sense. It seems like in this case, the administration isn’t interested in an extra set of eyes, he said.
“I’ve never seen a contract like that. … It doesn’t pass the smell test,” Reynaud said. “The only people that the City Council can rely on are the people that work for the administration. … But when you disagree with them on something, it’s kind of like ‘You have to do it our way.’ ”
This is only the second time Yenni has used his veto power. He previously vetoed the council’s decision to prohibit appointed employees from engaging in political activity, but the council had the five votes needed to override that veto. Eventually, the city’s residents added that ban to Kenner’s charter.
Yenni’s office says the council’s decision to ignore the bid specifications to award the contract to the lowest bidder sets a dangerous precedent. According to the city, more than 30 bidders have failed to follow bid guidelines in the past year, and 12 of them were the lowest bidders.
Yenni’s office said that in the past five years, the city has spent $25,440 on PVC pipe. The mayor said he’s following the advice of the city’s attorney and the council would be wise to do the same.
“I’m a government administrator, Keith Reynaud installs air conditioners. Keith Conley is the only one with a law degree and a bar card,” Yenni said.