At a meeting of the City Council's budget committee this afternoon, council member Tom Rasmussen, citing Josh's recent reporting about oddities with the city's new towing contract bidding process, called for an audit.
Budget committee chair, Council Member Tim Burgess seconded the idea and informed the head of the city's Finance and Administrative Services department, Fred Podesta, that the committee would seek the audit.
As Josh has reported:
A) The new service in the South End (of course) is lacking; B) The first bidding process was discontinued after two out-of-state vendors scored higher than Lincoln Towing,—and in the city's do-over, those companies were disqualified while Lincoln went on to win. And C) While the Request for Proposals (RFP)—an attempt to reform and modernize the towing industry—explicitly stated that the winning bidder's primary storage lot must also be where people pick up their towed cars, the final contract with Lincoln reverted to the old days when towing companies could send people to secondary lots to pick up their cars. In this instance, that means Lincoln'ssecondary lot is in Tukwila.
Podesta fielded questions from Rasmussen, Burgess, and Sally Bagshaw about the RFP and the contract today and explained the reason for the do-over. He said that while the city was, in fact, keen on new out-of-state bidders who had a record of modernizing municipal towing contracts, it turned out that despite scoring high on the first RFP (higher than Lincoln), the two other bidders were not qualified because they lacked the proper tow truck operator license.
Wary of legal repercussions, Podesta said, FAS scrapped the first bidding process and re-did it to make it "crystal clear" that the winning vendor needed to be licensed in the state at the time of the bid—a requirement, by the way, that goes above and beyond the state rule that the vendor simply be licensed by the state by the time they're actually towing cars. Which raises a question: Was the second bid manipulated to disqualifying the losing bidders, including AutoReturn?
Podesta acknowledged, as we've reported, that there were conflicting opinions at the state level over one of the losing out-of-state bidder's attempts to comply with the requirement; San Francisco's AutoReturn, as emails show, was told by the Washington State Patrol that buying a local licensed tow company, which they did, would qualify them.