Sole proposal by current attorneys

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There is at least one Valencia County commissioner who seems unclear as to what the board decided to do with the county attorney's contract last month.

Commissioner Alicia Aguilar, one of the three commissioners who voted last month to cancel the attorney contract and issue a request for proposals, asked why the RFP was put out on July 26.

The current contract with Nance, Pato and Stout of Socorro is for one year with an automatic annual renewal each September for another year, up to four years.

At the Aug. 7 meeting, Aguilar expressed concern that the RFP had been put out so quickly, with proposals due back to the county by Aug. 15.

Nance, Pato and Stout was the only firm to submit a response to the RFP.

"The whole intention of this was I wanted commission input and to meet with the attorneys," Aguilar said.

Aguilar said she wanted to discuss the scope of work for the attorneys and felt there needed to be some clarification of policy.

Looking over the billing for the attorneys, Aguilar said there were six to 11 calls a day to the attorneys from department heads and county staff.

She wondered if staff members were bypassing administration and the county manager by calling the attorneys directly.

"Before this contract is renewed or awarded, there needs to be communication with the attorneys," she said. "They represent the public through the elected officials. I am not comfortable with this rush without any input from the commissioners. I expected this to come back for more discussion."

The commissioner said she wanted to see the county pull back the RFP.

At the July 17 meeting county purchasing agent Mike Vinyard warned the commissioners that the RFP process would need to be compressed from 90 days into 45.

"We did that," said Valencia County Manager Bruce Swingle. "Who communicates to the attorneys is a policy decision and has nothing to do with the RFP. I'm not sure where to go."

Aguilar said her concern was the cost of the contract.

Vinyard said there was no way to obtain a price comparison without going through some kind of procurement process, and he pointed out that by issuing a new RFP, the county was not guaranteed a lower price.

Commissioner Mary Andersen said she had no problem with anyone (with the county) calling the attorneys with a legal question.

"I voted against this thing at the last meeting because I thought it was wrong and I still think so," Andersen said. "We have received excellent legal advice from these two young men."

Andersen said she was concerned that bringing on a new attorney at this point would put the county six to nine months behind in terms of several ongoing legal issues and union negotiations.

"We are doing nothing with this RFP except damaging the county," she said. "At the last meeting, it was very clear what was voted on was to put this out. Staff has done exactly what they were asked to do."

Vinyard said the impression he got specifically from Commissioner Aguilar was that the commission wanted to get the RFP out on the street as soon as possible.

"I had to push other things to the side and a lot of things suffered because of this," he said. "If you are going to throw this over, I need to know now."

Eaton said he voted for the RFP and supported it last month. He directed the RFP process to continue.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.