Holyrood review hits speed bump coming out of gate

By Craig Westcott/January 13, 2023

Holyrood council is hiring a consultant to cast “cold eyes” on the Town’s operations and develop a strategic plan, but the contract award didn’t happen without a hiccup.

It led councillor Sadie King on Tuesday to vote against approving the last set of council minutes, which recorded the discussion of the December 13 meeting at which the contract was first awarded to Pat Curran & Associates for $20,930, but later put on hold when it was discovered an error had been made in scoring the two competing bids.

The other bid was from J.W. Consulting at $21,160.

“More information was supposed to be forthcoming,” said King, noting the Town was supposed to check with the provincial government’s Procurement Agency, the Department of Municipal Affairs and its legal advisors on how to proceed given that an error had been made.

“Yes, the letters were received from these (official and advisors), but I have not seen the letters myself personally and before I see them, I will not vote in favour of the minutes,” King said.

Mayor Gary Goobie confirmed the committee which initially evaluated the bids (independently of staff) and recommended the winner did receive advice from the three groups cited by King. The committee is composed of Goobie and councillors Steve Winsor, Bruce King and Curtis Buckle.

Goobie said the Town used four councillors to evaluate the bids, but only needed three according to the rules of the Request For Proposals. Because one of the evaluators made a “major error” in assessing a component of the bids, that person’s evaluation was excluded from the final decision, he added.  

The upshot was that the consultant who was initially chosen for the job remained the preferred choice of two of the three remaining evaluators. The councillor whose score card was dropped also preferred Curran, but that person’s vote didn’t count.

“Where the motion was approved on December 13, then that stands,” the mayor said. “The committee has recommended – there was an e-mail sent out today from councillor Winsor explaining to that effect – that everything is in order and we complied with the advice that was given. There’s nothing of any substance in the Procurement Act that clearly defines what process has to be followed in this particular situation. So, on that basis we feel discretion had to be applied from the committee and council. There’s nothing in the Procurement Act that clearly articulates that in the event that there is an error that ‘this is the process that shall be followed.’ Neither Municipal Affairs, the Procurement Agency or the legal would actually give us any further advice. So, on that basis we met as a committee, we evaluated that and we feel that the previous motion on December 13 should stand.”

Winsor complimented Goobie on articulating the explanation so well.

“This is an unprecedented scenario,” Winsor allowed. “And there are some lessons learned in terms of the way the scoring is approached. I think it was a little complicated and there was an error made, but as the tender document states quite clearly, three evaluators are required… We discarded one scorecard as a spoiled ballot. There was a clear mathematical error made there and to uphold the integrity of the process it would not be appropriate to allow that individual to rescore their card. Therefore, it was decided the best course of action was to discard that card and the other three cards proceeded… It was all above board, very clear, and the guidance, frankly, from the Provincial people that we consulted with, they expressed their personal, vague opinions. There’s nothing in the legislation that clearly calls out this type of scenario. And there was nothing in case law that calls out this scenario. So to me it’s a fait accompli, we’ve beaten it to death, there were many, many, many discussions, and additionally through the evaluation and discussing it there were a number of other things that came to light too I feel were relevant and the intent of this (study) is a cold eyes review and we need to get on with it, and frankly I’m sick of talking about it, and the motion should stand as it was at the public meeting last month. We just need to move forward, and I hear the residents loud and clear on a number of matters, and this is something council has talked about for a year now. We’ve just delivered a very challenging budget with some reservations by all of us. We need to get on with this and see if we can deliver some results.”

The object of the study is to review the Town’s policies and procedures, eliminate duplication where possible and suggest more efficient ways of delivering programs and services.

Winsor said once the consultant is notified that he has received the contract, work will begin right away.

“I think in the first quarter there will be a lot of discussion and interviews with different individuals,” he said. “Everyone will be consulted, the full council and staff… There will be many interviews, discussions, meetings, presentations, and everybody will have an opportunity to have their say… And there is a public consultation, and we certainly do encourage people to keep an eye on that.” 

Mayor Gary Goobie said while the Town conducted an organizational review several years ago, this is different.

“I think the operational review goes far beyond that because it is going to encompass a lot more,” he said. “Overall, it will hopefully clearly determine, through certain recommendations, as to what we’re doing right and areas where we may try to improve upon, and give us some sense or indication of (what) as our town continues to grow in the years to come, what direction we need to go. Are we heading in the right direction, or do we need to make some adjustments and modifications in certain areas? It’s all in an effort to ensure that there is efficiency and effectiveness as we try to operate the Town as a council with the staff.”

Councillor Bruce King said such a review is long overdue. “It is going to be a public consultation and I would encourage all these people who are on the Holyrood Voice that have got an opinion… when the time comes for these public consultations then your you-know-what should be sat in the chair across from the people there and that’s the time then, if you want to make a difference, for you to have your say.”

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