Purchasing policy recommendation
of $20k per project without Board approval passes 4-3 in 'convoluted' Gordon BOE meeting Monday night
Convoluted is the only word that can describe Monday night’s meeting of the Gordon County Board of Education, where the Board ended up passing agenda items, most noticeably the purchasing policy change from $10,000 per project line item to $20,000 per total project, by a 4-3 vote, with one Board member only participating in certain parts
of the vote due to a dropped call.
Board members Eddie Hall, Jason Hendrix and Kacee Smith all voted against the agenda items including the purchasing policy change, with members Charlie Walraven, Dana Stewart, Bobby Hall and Chris Johnson all voting for the purchasing policy change.
Board member Johnson did not participate physically in the meeting. It is unknown where he was during the meeting, but he was called by Dr. Kimberly Fraker just before the work session and participated by speakerphone for the majority of the meeting, except when the call was dropped during the crucial vote for the purchasing policy change.
The purchasing policy change was first read at the Monday, Aug. 12 meeting of the Gordon County Board of Education. The move to change the purchasing policy came after reporting by the Gordon Gazette of a ticket booth at Gordon Central that was built for an estimated $31,000 - $40,000 but no Board member knew about the project, nor did it go before the Board for approval.
The old policy stated that the Board needed to approve any line item purchase $10,000 or greater, meaning that large building projects could be broken up into smaller invoices that would not need to go before the Board. The new policy takes away the need for Board approval on individual line items of more than $10,000 and puts in the new measure of Board approval for total project cost of more than $20,000. The proposal also puts safety measures in place to make sure purchases over $5,000 but under $20,000 are made with the best use of tax payer money in mind. The new policy stipulates that any purchase between $5,000 and $9,999 would need the person requesting the purchase to get informal bid quotes, such as calling a supplier and asking how much an item costs, or looking up the price of the item needed on a website or in a catalog. Any purchase between $10,000 and $19,999, formal quotes by email or letter, along with a form to formally request cost from vendors with an official quote, would be required. Any total project cost $20,000 and greater would require a RFP sealed bid, which requires being placed on a procurement website and on the school system’s website.
But after the first reading last month, it was obvious that many taxpayers in the community were not in favor of raising the amount for Board approval to $20,000 per project, with many wanting the total project cost to be $10,000.
Monday night’s meeting ended up being convoluted due to the events that led up to the vote and how the vote in favor of the policy passed.
After a long work session, the regular meeting was called to order by Gordon County Board of Education Chair Charlie Walraven.
Walraven then asked for a motion from the Board to approve the agenda; Board member Jason Hendrix motioned to make an amendment to item ‘H’ of the consent agenda. A consent agenda is being used during the meetings by Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Fraker. A consent agenda, which is a section of the regular agenda, takes the list of all items needed to be voted on by the Board into one vote instead of separate votes.
But the issue for the public concerning the consent agenda is that there were two separate consent agendas; the one that was published publicly was not the same one used at Monday night's meeting.
Usually, the Gordon Gazette receives an email on the Friday before the meeting with the agenda; however, for this meeting, no email was sent. But the agendas are published for the public on the Gordon County Schools' website, under the Board of Education section. The published agenda before the meeting, as well as at least an hour after the meeting, only contained two consent items, items A and B, on the meeting agenda. Item A was Approval of Certificate of Project Completions and Item B was Approval of Board Policy by DJED-Bids and Quotations (purchasing policy), which was a second reading. The agenda used during the meeting by the Board included a Consent Agenda with eight items to be voted on by the Board. Item H in the agenda used, which was not made public, was the Approval of Board Policy by DJED-Bids and Quotations, also known as the purchasing policy.
***UPDATE***: Around noon on Tuesday, Sept. 10, Gordon County Schools executive administrative assistant Sharon Seabolt called the Gazette and said that they are checking into an issue with E-Board, the software used to publish the agendas to the website, that could be the cause of the agenda mix-up. When Seabolt posted the agenda and made some of the supporting documents private from public view so just the Board members could review them, several items of the agenda were also hid which is why the public agenda only has the two items and the agenda used in the meeting had eight items.
“Particularly on the consent agenda, when we vote on this, we take it as a whole,” said Walraven to the Board. “Would you like to pull any of those out to discuss those?”
“I want to pull out item ‘H’,” said Hendrix of the purchasing policy.
“You want to pull out item ‘H’,” said Walraven. “We have a motion to pull out item ‘H’ for individual discussion. Do I have a second?”
Eddie Hall gave the second to pull item ‘H’ out for discussion.
Walraven then asked if there was any discussion on pulling the item out, then immediately asked if Board members were in favor to pull the item out for discussion, to raise their right hand.
Eddie Hall, Kacee Smith and Jason Hendrix all raised their right hand.
Walraven then asked which Board members were opposed to pulling item ‘H’ out for discussion, with Dana Stewart, Bobby Hall and Walraven raising their hands in opposition.
Walraven then checked the phone and asked, “Mr. Johnson? Are you there?”
But Johnson was not there, the call had disconnected.
“So, we have a 3-3 (tie), and that means it (Item H) will not be pulled out (for discussion), is that correct?” asked Walraven.
Johnson, who had participated by phone call for the whole work session, which was more than an hour long, was suddenly not on the phone and did not get a chance to vote to pull the policy item out of the consent agenda to discuss further.
Fraker then began trying to get Johnson back on the phone, while Walraven went back to the approval of the total consent agenda.
“Now, we go back to the approval of the (consent) agenda. All in favor of the (consent) agenda as-is, please raise your hand.”
Bobby Hall, Dana Stewart and Charlie Walraven all raised their hand.
“All opposed?” asked Walraven.
Eddie Hall, Kacee Smith and Jason Hendrix raised their hand.
Fraker then had Johnson back on the call and in the meeting.
“I’m sorry, did we lose you?” asked Fraker. “I’m not sure where we lost you at, but I’m going to put you back on the speaker. We’re at the approval of the consent agenda. I’ll let Charlie explain it to you.”
Johnson came back on the line, on speakerphone, and nobody explained to him that a request had been made to pull Item H, the purchasing policy item, out for further discussion. It was never determined when the call to Johnson was dropped, but due to the fact that Johnson did not ask about the three Board members who wanted to discuss item ‘H,’ it is assumed he was not on the phone during that discussion.
“As I mentioned, in the consent agenda, we take all (items) A – H together,” said Walraven again. “At this time I will entertain a motion to amend the consent agenda. Is there a motion to amend, or to approve, to approve the consent agenda?”
Bobby Hall made the motion to approve the consent agenda with Dana Stewart seconding the motion.
“At this time, all those for approval of the consent agenda A – H raise your hand,” said Walraven.
Bobby Hall, Dana Stewart and Charlie Walraven raised their hands.
“Mr. Johnson, do you have a voice vote on that?” asked Walraven.
“Yes, I am for it,” said Johnson.
“All opposed?” asked Walraven.
Again, Eddie Hall, Kacee Smith and Jason Hendrix all opposed.
“The agenda passes,” said Walraven.
After the vote, Walraven immediately asked for a motion for the Board to go into executive session for personnel matters. The total consent agenda, all eight items including the purchasing policy change, was approved.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the four votes we needed,” said Smith. “I see this position as a representative role and the stakeholders who contacted me were overwhelmingly against it and that is how I voted.”
“Tonight I tried,” said Eddie Hall. “Jason Hendrix and Kacee Smith did join me to try and block this measure, but the other four voted to allow passage. It’s my opinion that the people of Gordon County elect us to oversee their funds, and this policy puts a large amount of money at the discretion of employees with no oversight by the elected officials.”
The next meeting of the Gordon County Board of Education will be held on Monday, Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are held at the Gordon County College & Career Academy, located on Beamer Road in Calhoun.
FAR LEFT: The agenda that was published on the Gordon County Board of Education website for the public, included only two consent agenda items. RIGHT: The actual agenda that was used during the meeting, that was not published publicly, included eight total items to be voted on at Monday night's meeting of the Gordon County BOE.