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

OEO Changes Policy on City Contracts for Non-Stocking M/W/DSBE Suppliers

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After long treating M/W/DSBE supply firms the same as M/W/DSBE subcontractors, and giving City contractors 100% credit for the use of M/W/DSBE supply firms, the City of Philadelphia Office of Economic Opportunity has now changed its tune.  Apparently, the OEO will no longer give full credit for use of an M/W/DSBE supply firm, unless the firm is a “stocking” supplier, meaning that it actually has in stock the supplies which it plans to furnish to the prime contractor on the City contract.

The new policy was reported in The Philadelphia Tribune in February.  Angela Dowd-Burton, Executive Director of the OEO, was quoted in the Tribune article as follows:

“They [the M/W/DSBE] don’t have the inventory, and the probability is they’re just picking up the phone and collecting a fee…So, we’ve decided that whatever commission you get from making that call, that’s the only participation we’re going to report on.”

“Contractors will ultimately have to find participation from minority- and women-owned businesses that actually hire people and use contractors that do work, as opposed to someone that is providing more of a clerical function.”

The new OEO policy will undoubtedly affect many M/W/DSBE supply firms, as it is rare that any supplier will have in stock all of the needed supplies for a construction project.  Where custom or special order equipment is involved, as is the case on many public works projects, it is unlikely that any supplier will have the equipment in stock.

The OEO is reportedly encouraging the use of subcontractors for the ordering of construction supplies.  It is hard to see how this makes any difference, however, as it is unlikely that a subcontractor will have in stock the supplies that the supply firm does not.

As for City contractors, they must now pay greater attention to the firms that they propose to meet the City’s M/W/DSBE contracting goals. If those firms are suppliers, and not working subcontractors, the City contractor may need to think twice before using the supply firm to avoid risking disqualification for failure to meet the City’s contracting goals, or seek clarification from the OEO before submitting a bid.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in City of Phila., DBE/MBE/WBE Leave a comment

City Issues FY2012 1st Quarter Report for M/W/DSBE Contracting

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In January 2012, the City’s Office of Economic Opportunity issued its First Quarter Report for Fiscal Year 2012 for contracting activity by minority, woman, and disabled-owned business enterprises (M/W/DSBEs) on City and City-related contracts.  The report can be found here.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in City of Phila., DBE/MBE/WBE Leave a comment

Failure to Submit Proper Consent of Surety Is Non-Waiveable Bid Defect

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In a recent decision, Dragani v. Borough of Ambler, 37 A.3d 27 (2012), the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has ruled that a bid for a borough waste collection contract contained a non-waiveable defect where the bidder failed to include a proper consent of surety from a surety with an at least $20 million of underwriting authority, as per the bid instructions.

While the Court in Dragani recognized that the Supreme Court’s decision in Gaeta granted municipalities more leeway in waiving apparent defects, the Court declined to find that the defect was waiveable under the Gaeta decision.  Instead, the Court held that the borough’s instructions were unambiguous and removed any discretion to waive the consent of surety requirement.  The Court followed its decision in Glasgow v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 851 A.2d 1014 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004), where it held that, if a defect involves the waiver of a mandatory requirement that the bid specifications treat as non-waiveable, then the defect cannot be waived.

One concern, not explored in the Court’s opnion, is whether the underwriting authority limitation could serve in future bids as a means to disqualify an otherwise qualified bidder whose surety happens not to meet the $20 million threshold, without any real benefit for the municipality.  In Dragani, the bidder’s surety, Fidelity-Maryland, had $16 million in underwriting authority, but its parent had $571 million in underwriting authority.

Nonetheless, the primary lesson from Dragani is that bidders must pay careful attention to the bid instructions, especially those concerning the bid security.  This lesson cannot be overstated.

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

Public Bidding Hall of Fame: Gaeta v. Ridley School District

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This is one in a series of posts which will highlight significant Pennsylvania court decisions in the area of public bidding and contracts.  The first decision highlighted concerns waiver of bid defects.

In Gaeta v. Ridley School District, 567 Pa. 500, 788 A.2d 363 (2002), the low bidder submitted as bid security a B-rated bid bond, whereas the bid instructions had required an “A-rated” bid bond.  However, the school district waived the apparent bid defect and allowed the bidder to substitute an A-rated bid bond for the B-rated bid bond. The school district’s decision was challenged as a violation of the basic rules of public bidding.

On appeal, the issue was whether the school district could waive the defect in the low bidder’s bid.  The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rejected the taxpayer challenge, and upheld the bid bond substitution because no competitive advantage was conferred on the low bidder and because the bid bond did not affect the performance of the contract as the bid bond would ultimately be replaced by a performance bond.

In Gaeta, the Supreme Court announced a new test for waiver of bid defects.  Under the test announced in Gaeta, a municipality is permitted to waive a bid defect where the waiver will not deprive the municipality of an assurance that the contract would be entered into, performed, and guaranteed according to its specified requirements, and where the waiver will not place one bidder in a position of advantage over the other bidders or will not otherwise undermine the necessary standard of competition.

The waiver test in Gaeta has been applied in numerous case since Gaeta was decided.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Court Decisions, Hall of Fame Decisions Leave a comment

Public Bidding 101: A Level Playing Field

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This post is the first in what will be a continuing series of posts on the basic tenets of public bidding and contracting in Pennsylvania.

A cornerstone of public bidding is the concept of a “level playing field” which binds all of the bidders to a common standard which governs all bids that are received.  A common standard implies previously prepared specifications, freely accessible to all competitors, and not written in favor of one particular bidder.  The level playing field is violated whenever the public entity applies a different standard to the bids received, or awards a contract based upon unpublished or unadvertised standards, or otherwise deviates from the published bid instructions and requirements.

In Ezy Parks v. Larson, 499 Pa. 615,  454 A.2d 928 (1982), a case which is often cited, the Supreme Court re-affirmed the concept of a level playing field.  In Ezy Parks, the Supreme Court enjoined an award by PennDOT of new leases for existing parking lots where the bid instructions were ambiguous and did not provide a common basis on which all of the bids could be judged.  Further, the Supreme Court re-emphasized that the bidding instructions could not be clarified on an ad hoc basis by ex parte explanations from public officials to those potential bidders who are either clever enough to seek such advice or who simply, for whatever reason, have special access to the ears of the public officials.

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Posted on by Christopher I. McCabe, Esq. in Public Bidding 101 Leave a comment