Checks totaling nearly $40,000 to a single contractor sit on Finance Director Jim Mahoney's desk. Until he and the city manager can determined how the contractor was hired without a contract, the checks will remain where they are.
Schaumburg & Polk, inc., (SPI), an engineering firm with offices in five cities, including Tyler, has billed the city nearly $100,000 over the past two years. The problem, Mahoney said, is the city never properly authorized the work, and some projects lack legal contracts.
Calls from the Herald-Press to interim City Manager Leslie Cloer were not returned.
Last month, Mahoney discovered former Public Works Director Tim Perry had circumvented city purchasing policies in hiring SPI for a number of city projects.
City ordinance requires council approval and competitive bidding for purchase orders of more than $25,000. SPI, Mahoney said, made a practice of billing the city with multiple invoices for the same project. In that way, the city and SPI could do business without triggering a council vote.
As a department head, Perry, who retired from the city last month, could authorize these invoices. Perry now directs public works for the city of Athens.
On one such project, a boating access improvement survey in 2018-2019 – improvements the city council eventually rejected – Perry authorized seven invoices.
The job totaled nearly $37,000, but Perry authorized payments as low as $525.
“It's hard to say if the city lost any money on these projects,” Mahoney said. “If they had gone up for bid, it's impossible to know what the winning bid would have been. That's why we have this process; to make sure everything is fair and above-board.”
Either way, Mahoney said, circumventing city policy has undermined trust in city government.
“I'm sure he [Perry] believed he was doing the right thing, and helping the city,” Mahoney said. “However, he's no longer here, and we've already spoken with the two deputy directors in that department; we don't foresee any future issues.”
Going forward, Mahoney said, SPI, like all other contractors, is welcome to bid on city contracts. After city administrators and council members finish reviewing how SPI was hired without a legal contract, the city will most likely pay the company, Mahoney said.
“Bridges haven't been burned,” he said. “SPI will get the same consideration as any vendor when putting forth a bid.”
On Friday, Perry told the Herald-Press he would not comment on the matter.