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Press release from the City of Eureka:
The City of Eureka issued a “Request for Proposals” (RFP) on February 6, 2019 to solicit proposals for Marketing Services for the City of Eureka. The due date for those proposals was April 5, 2019 at 4 PM. According to the language in the RFP, each proposer was required to submit one digital copy, along with nine bound copies and one unbound copy of their proposal.
On April 7, 2019 a request was made by Humboldt Made to replace the submitted printed copy of the proposal with a different copy. Development Services staff reviewed the request and granted the exchange of copies. Humboldt Made provided the new copies and those new documents were used by the reviewing panel.
As staff moved forward with the process of evaluating the proposals, providing the documents to the review panel, and making its recommendation to Council, there was a general understanding that all 12 firms had met the basic submittal requirements with the exception of the replaced printed document from Humboldt Made.
The City received a number of Public Records Act (PRA) requests for documents regarding the RFP and the proposals that were submitted. City Administration staff began responding to those PRAs and providing the proposals, documents, e-mails, etc. to individual requestors. It was during this process of pulling documents that an error in the timing of the submittals was uncovered. Finance Department staff, who is responsible for receiving and logging in responses to bids and RFPs, confirms that on April 5, 2019 the City’s Finance Department received 12 printed proposals from the following consultants: Eureka Found, Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau, HUB, IWS Marketing, John Harper Media, NCAA & Proper Wellness, Opp/Ed, SIRUS Marketing, Vessel Strategy, Eddy Alexander, Humboldt Made, and MC2 Design Group. City Clerk/IT staff confirmed that 10 digital copies were received on April 5, 2019 with 2 digital copies submitted on Monday, April 8, 2019. The two firms that first submitted their digital copies on April 8th, were Humboldt Made and Vessel Strategy.
At the May 21st Council meeting, Council asked staff to confirm the exact differences between the two Humboldt Made proposals. Staff stated that they had been informed of only one change to the document, and the change was one page replacing a place holder page. After the meeting on May 21st , City Administration staff reviewed and compared both proposals to confirm changes. During this review, other changes were documented in the proposal, including but not limited to, correction of spelling, typos, new and revised sentences and word edits.
Due to these facts and the amount of the contract, the City Council must consider if these irregularities in the RFP process are minor or inconsequential and if waiving would allow Humboldt Made an unfair competitive advantage. The Council will meet on June 4, 2019 in closed session with the City Attorney, Robert Black to consider the issue.
The misinformation that has plagued this process is not only unfortunate but unacceptable. It is without question that decisions were made based on information that had not been vetted. The errors made in this RFP process has provided many insights into how processes can be improved.
Moving forward, processes will be reviewed and strengthened to ensure that these types of errors or misunderstandings do not occur. Beginning immediately, City Manager Greg Sparks orders the following step:
“The Finance Department is directed to review all RFP/RFQ submittals to ensure that proposals meet the requirements established in the notice for such services. This would include timely submission of documents both hard copies and electronic and any formatting requirements established in the notice. Upon completing that review, the Finance Department will either certify proposals to move forward in the review process or to reject and state the reasons for rejection.”
Trusted information is what all staff at the City of Eureka strives to provide the Council and public. While staff cannot change the mis-steps that have occurred over the past eight weeks, a commitment can be made to adhere to all policies and ethical standards and work to restore public trust.