NEWKIRK — State auditors have joined the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in looking into allegations of questionable bidding practices involving Kay County commissioners.
Among other things, investigators are looking into complaints that Kay County commissioners have been misusing six-month bid contracts to skirt the intent of Oklahoma’s competitive bidding laws, The Oklahoman has learned.
A six-month bid is where contractors submit bids for the rates they would charge to supply an open-ended quantity of materials, labor or rental equipment over a six-month period.
The process is used to purchase things such as gravel, concrete and bridge materials and to pay for bulldozer work and concrete finishing services, said Kay County Commission Chairman Tyson Rowe.
In a questionable twist that is drawing the attention of investigators, Rowe acknowledges commissioners have sometimes awarded contracts to multiple bidders and allowed commissioners to choose from the list of acceptable bidders, even though their rates might differ.
“Depending on what it is — there’s three different contractors as far as bridge materials go, and a lot of times there might not be a whole lot of difference between the three bidders,” he said. “We may take all three bids just to pay for availability. Sometimes, one might not have it and the other one might. The same goes with a lot of the stuff. There’s some items where we’ll just take the lowest bid — just depending on the circumstance.”
Most of the time, commissioners try to buy from the lowest bidder first, he said.
Rowe defended the practice, even though it doesn’t ensure the county gets the lowest price.
“Normally, if we accept more than one, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of difference between the two bids,” he said. “If there’s one that’s way high, we don’t accept it.”
Gayle Ward, executive director of the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, said the award of contracts to multiple bidders is a common practice used by county commissioners throughout Oklahoma.
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