The Franklin County Commission’s own paid consultant submitted a bid for a 911 network project that he drafted the proposal for, forcing all bids to be rejected Tuesday to avoid a perceived conflict of interest.
Franklin County 911 Director Vince Zagarri’s company, Eureka-based Zagarri Engineering, submitted a $24,980 bid for the remote tower network management system project.
Zagarri drafted the project proposal and then also bid on the project, according to County Counselor Mark Vincent, who said the “appearance is not good.”
Vincent suggested that the county commission reject all of the bids and start over.
First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker agreed that rejecting all of the bids and starting over was the right move.
“I think in order to keep clarity and transparency we’re probably going to have to do that,” Brinker said.
“It could be proposed or misconstrued as a conflict, and we don’t want that to happen,” Brinker added. “I don’t think it was malicious by any means.”
Brinker does not want there to be any kind of perceived conflict of interest on the project, and the commission wants to “make sure this is clean.”
There was no rush to get a bid for the project approved Tuesday, so the commission voted to go out for new bids.
Zagarri declined comment to The Missourian concerning his bid.
As the county commission opened the bids from the various companies, Vincent expressed surprise when the name of Zagarri’s company was announced as a bidder.
“Vince, is that you?” Vincent asked when he heard the name of Zagarri’s company announced.
Zagarri was in the commission chambers as the bids were being read.
The county contracts with Zagarri for technical assistance with the county’s 911 system and makes an amount not to exceed $82,080 a year.
If the bids had been taken under advisement, Zagarri would not have been able to review them as the 911 director because he was one of the bidders, Vincent said.
The county would have had to hire another consultant to review the bids, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said.
Even if Zagarri had withdrawn his bid it would not have rectified the situation, Vincent said.
“We’re hung out to dry right now,” Vincent added.
Zagarri then asked if the county’s Information Technology Director Larry Sikes could review the bids.
But Vincent said “No.”
Griesheimer also did not think that was a good idea, saying, “I don’t think Larry would have the expertise to do that.”
Zagarri’s bid was one of several bids for the project and the second lowest.