Last week, I published a story that raised questions about the public agency that oversees Safeco Field, the Mariners Public Facilities District, or PFD.
Without a competitive public bid the PFD awarded a $100,000 consulting contract to Pat Fearey of The Fearey Group. (It’s worth noting that the chair of the PFD, Jose Gaitan and Pat Fearey are both members of the Community Development Roundtable—a private luncheon group of CEOs, consultants, lawyers, developers, media—that meets every Monday at the Washington Athletic Club downtown. Pat Fearey is the president of the group.)
In my article, I pointed out that all Washington State agencies, King County agencies, and Seattle agencies—including King County’s other stadium agency (the Public Stadium Authority, PSA, which oversees Qwest)— have rules requiring consulting contracts to go out to a competitive bid if the contract is over $25,000 to $43,000, depending on the agency. I also pointed out that state law governing PFDs says “purchases, contracts for purchase, and sales” must be competitively bid at $35,000 or above.
PFD director Kevin Callan was quoted in the article saying the PFD’s own rules allowed them to award a $100,000 contract without a public bid. Given the rules governing other public agencies and the state rules governing PFDs, I voiced my skepticism.
However, Callan was right. The PFD was within its legal bounds. There is another rule governing PFDs that I was not aware of—about consultants—that allows PFDs to set their own rules when it comes to professional services (or consultants). And they did just that.
Callan had me do a public records request to get the PFD’s own rules. It turns out they passed a resolution saying the consultant contract threshold for public bids is $100,000.
So, everything is kosher over at the Mariners stadium watchdog group.
Or is it?
For me, some questions remain.
Why is the PFD’s threshold for hiring consultants so out of whack with other public agencies’ policies? For example, the Public Stadium Authority (the Qwest Field agency) has to do a competitive public bid for consultants at $25,000.
Jack Zeigler, the state bureaucrat who oversees contract procurement rules, added a bit of context to the $100,000 no-bid contract. In the context of the state’s laws and rules that require competition, Zeigler said, “If someone has made a purchase of $100,000, I’d ask for a sole source justification. I don’t know of any other state that as a general rule doesn’t require a competitive bid for that amount of money. In our state, buying without a competitive bid is the exception.”
Why does a PFD that’s overseeing a $520 million public project get to make up its own rules?
And, as I reported, why is it okay that the terms of four of the seven board members who approved Fearey’s contract have expired?
Specifically to the Fearey contract: What has the PFD gotten for its $100K? Looking over the bills, it seems to me like a lot of “brainstorming.”