Commonwealth Court: Laches Requires Reversal Of Injunction Issued For Violation Of Separations Act

A recent decision by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania illustrates the extreme perils of waiting too long to challenge a violation of the public bidding laws. In December 2015, the West Jefferson Hill School District solicited bids for a new Read more

Regulations Issued For City of Philadelphia Best Value Contracting

On July 27, the regulations governing the City of Philadelphia's purchase of goods and non-professional services under the "best value" standard became official. Under the regulations, the Procurement Commissioner can permit a contract to be awarded under the "best value" Read more

Third Circuit Affirms Decision On DRPA Bridge Contract But Reverses Judicial Award Of Contract To Low Bidder

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently affirmed a N.J. federal district court decision which found that that the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) had acted improperly in rejecting the low bidder for a painting contract for the Read more

AIA Pennsylvania To Host Debate On Separations Act

On Thursday, July 13, AIA Pennsylvania, the unifying body of the Pennsylvania chapters of the American Institute of Architects, will host a debate on the Separations Act. The moderated debate will take place at Harrisburg University and will feature key players Read more

DGS Issues List Of Exempt Steel Products For 2017

The Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS) has finally issued the list of machinery and equipment steel products which will be exempt for calendar year 2017 under the PA Steel Products Procurement Act.  The list was published in the Pa. Read more

General

Losing Bids Under Public-Private Transportation Partnership Law Not Subject To Disclosure Under Right-To-Know Law

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While the Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law (RTKL) generally provides that, after the conclusion of public bidding, all bids are potential public records subject to disclosure, this is not always the case in all public procurements.  A recent decision of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, Com. v. Walsh/Granite JV, made this point clear when the Court denied a RTKL request to obtain copies of the losing bids on a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Public-Private Transportation Partnership Law (3P Law) project known as the Pennsylvania Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. Read more

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General Leave a comment

PA Public Contracts Nominated For The Expert Institute Best Legal Blog Competition

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I am happy to report that PA Public Contracts has been selected to compete in The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Competition. From a field of hundreds of potential nominees, PA Public Contracts has received enough nominations to join the one of the largest competitions for legal blog writing online today.

Now that the blogs have been nominated and placed into their respective categories, it is up to their readers to select the very best. With an open voting format that allows participants one vote per blog, the competition will be a true test of the dedication of each blog’s existing readers, while also giving up-and-coming players in the legal blogging space exposure to a wider audience.  Each blog will compete for rank within its category, while the three blogs that receive the most votes in any category will be crowned overall winners.

The competition will run from now until the close of voting at 12:00 am on November 14, 2016, at which point the votes will be tallied and the winners announced.

So, if you like what you see on this blog, please cast a vote for PA Public Contracts here.

Thank you for your support and continued readership!

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General Leave a comment

Public Bidding And The Level Playing Field

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Recently I was asked, what rules govern competitive bidding? There are many different rules that govern public bidding in Pennsylvania, many of which can be found in the Commonwealth Procurement Code.  Some govern the timing of bid awards and withdrawal of bids.

The primary “unwritten” rule of public bidding is the “level playing field” rule. This rule means that all bidders are treated the same, and are judged by a common standard that governs all bids that are received.  A common standard implies universal specifications, freely accessible to all bidders, and not written in favor of a single bidder.  The level playing field is violated where the public owner applies a different standard to the bids it receives, or awards a contract based upon unpublished or unadvertised standards, or otherwise deviates from the published bid instructions and bidding requirements. Read more

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General Leave a comment

Can The City Of Phila. Purchase Police Body Cameras Under An Existing Contract For Tasers?

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Can a public entity add-on to an existing contract in order to satisfy a need for a new and different service, supply or equipment?

On March 7, WHYY’s Newsworks reported that that is precisely what the City of Philadelphia plans to do under an existing stun gun contract with Taser International.  According to the Newsworks report, the City intends to spend more than $200,000 under the Taser contract to purchase police body cameras:

City records show that Philadelphia’s Police Department has a $705,361 contract with Taser that is expected to cover hundreds more cameras, the cost of evidence storage and equipment upgrades. It will also pay for stun guns.

Officials confirm, $210,000 of that will pay for hundreds of new body cameras.

Philadelphia had an existing contract with Taser for the stun guns, so it was easy to piggyback on that for the body cameras.

The City’s intent to spend more than $200,000 to purchase police body cameras under the Taser contract, without open, competitive bidding, may violate the public bidding rules set forth in Article VIII, Chapter 2, of the Phila. Home Rule Charter.  When it comes to the purchase of generic items, like body cameras, the bedrock rule for City contracting is sealed, competitive bidding, duly advertised, with the contract being awarded to the lowest responsive, responsible bidder.

Read more

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in City of Phila., General Leave a comment

2016 Bidding Thresholds Announced For State Authorities And Municipalities

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Effective January 1, 2016, the thresholds for public bidding by Pennsylvania state authorities and municipalities will remain unchanged from 2015 and are as follows:

  • Purchases and contracts below $10,500 require no formal bidding or written/telephonic quotations
  • Purchases and contracts between $10,500 and $19,400 require three written/telephonic quotations
  • Purchases and contracts over $19,400 require formal bidding

Bidding thresholds are adjusted annually for inflation by the Pa. Department of Labor & Industry under Act 90 of 2011. The Pa. Bulletin announcement announcing the 2016 bidding thresholds can be found here.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General Leave a comment

Continuing Pa. Budget Impasse Affects Payments To Contractors

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The current Pennsylvania budget impasse is now entering its fifth month.  How does the impasse and the lack of a state budget affect vendors and contractors holding contracts with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and its departments, boards and agencies?

According to the FAQ webpage of the Office of the Budget, the following questions and answers address payments to vendors and contractors and future contracts:

Question 9: Will Commonwealth agencies process invoices from vendors?

Answer: Yes. Vendors with state contracts who continue to provide goods and services to commonwealth agencies can submit invoices and Commonwealth agencies will process all invoices received. All invoices held during the budget impasse will be sent promptly to the State Treasury for processing after the FY15-16 budget is enacted.

Question 10: How will the budget impasse affect existing contracts?

Answer: Most state contracts include language addressing this situation, which states that the commonwealth’s obligation to make payments shall be subject to the availability and appropriation of funds and that contractors may not stop work or refuse to make delivery because of non-payment. If the Commonwealth’s untimely payment results in a default situation, the contractor may pursue the remedies set forth in the contract.

Question 11: Can Commonwealth agencies enter into new contracts for 2015-16?

Answer: Agencies may enter into new contracts for FY 2015-16. The contracts will clearly state that payment is subject to appropriation.

The takeaway here is that vendors and contractors doing business with a public entity like the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should never forget that public contracts are unlike private contracts in many ways, not the least of which is that the payment obligations of the public entity are nearly always subject to legislative appropriation of the funds necessary for payment. So, while payment may be delayed due to non-appropriation, the obligation to perform the work covered by the contract continues even in the face of non-payment.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in DGS, General Leave a comment

Payment Rights, Obligations and Remedies on Pennsylvania Public Works Projects

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On Thursday, November 6, 2014, I gave a dinner presentation to the Southeast District meeting of the National Utility Contractors Association (Pennsylvania).  The topic was “Payment Rights, Obligations and Remedies on Public Works Projects.”  If you would like a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, send me an email, and I’ll be happy to send it along.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General Leave a comment

PA Public Contracts Quoted In The Philadelphia Inquirer

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I’m happy to report that PA Public Contracts was quoted today by business reporter Joseph N. DiStefano in his Philly Deals column in the business section of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The column, “Is state in the clear in loan dispute?”, discusses the Telwell, Inc. v. PSERS Board of Claims decision which I blogged about here.  The Inquirer article can be found here (a subscription may be required) or here.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General Leave a comment

Pennsylvania Bar Institute Sponsors CLE Primer On Mechanics’ Liens And Bond Claims

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On Thursday, December 5, 2013, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) is sponsoring a continuing legal education course entitled “Primer on Mechanics’ Liens and Bond Claims.”

I will be a presenter, and I am looking forwarding to sharing my knowledge and experiences on the topic of bonds and bond claims on public construction projects in Pennsylvania.

The flyer on the PBI CLE course can be found here.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General, Surety and Bonding Leave a comment

Former Philadelphia School Superintendent Ackerman Directed Award of No-Bid Contract

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According to a recent Inquirer article, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission has concluded that former Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman directed Philadelphia School District staff to award a controversial $7.5 million no-bid contract for surveillance cameras to a small minority-owned firm in 2010.  The Philadelphia Inquirer article reporting the SRC’s conclusion can be found here.

My earlier post on the lawsuit which was filed by the company which lost the contract can be found here.  This news should bolster the chances of the company in its lawsuit against the School District.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in General, Phila. School District Leave a comment