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  • Writer's pictureMike Burkons

Mayor Berns' Response to the Critical Plain Dealer Article

This morning, Justin Berns put out a scathing response to yesterday's article titled, "Beachwood repeatedly hands lucrative contracts to single company without bidding process; city says there’s no need -".

I don't care that Justin choose to be critical of me. I expect and accept that this comes with the territory when asking these tough questions. However, it is important that this doesn't distract anyone from the issue.

Justin started his response by claiming that I am a hypocrite because I voted for the annual contract with GPD last December. I imagine Justin knows that the annual contract I voted for, which is only for $1,850 a month, or $22,200 a year, isn't illegal as it is below the $25k a year threshold of our local law.

It isn't a secret that I have issues with GPD and wouldn't have voted to award them the annual contract if we were presented other options. However, every year Council is asked to approve this annual contract mid December two weeks before the previous contract expires, without providing any other options knowing that no responsible councilman would vote against it because if we don’t have a city engineer on January 1st, no construction can take place in Beachwood.

It is correct that I voted for GPDs most recent annual contract, which is under $25k and issn't illegal and it is also correct that almost every other contract awarded to GDP, and especially those that were never voted on by anyone, are illegal. I imagine that Justin knows this but is pretending not to understand this in desperate and disingenuous attempt to confuse and distract people.

In case you are confused, here is all you need to understand. The annual contract spells out what work GPD must provide for the $1,850 monthly retainer and that GPD must submit a proposal for all work/tasks outside the retainer that are over $2,500. While there is nothing illegal about the annual contract Council approves (which amounts to $22,200 a year), what is illegal is Justin's belief that when GPD submits these proposals for additional work that is above $2,500 (which amounts to approximately $500k a year), that he has the legally authority to approve these proposals without following 1) the state and local laws mandating that engineering contracts over $50k and $25k must be awarded in a specific competitive process, and 2) the law requiring Council approval for any expenditure over the Mayor's spending authority (which was $15k until March 15, 2021 when it was increased to $25k).

As the Plain Dealer article explained, Justin and the Law Director claim they can ignore laws they don't want to follow because, "laws passed by previous administrations do not apply to them."

The Plain Dealer article went on to write, "Jason Mercier, the director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center in Washington state, points out that governments can’t just ignore old laws because they were passed by their predecessors. Council members are free change laws or write new ones – but Beachwood has done neither, and its bidding law is still on the books."

The Mayor and the Law Director believe they can ignore the laws requiring that we award engineering contracts over $25k in a competitive process, so we can "award" all of these contracts, which total an average of $500k a year, to our City Engineer's firm, at whatever he deems they should be paid, without allowing any other firm to be considered, and without Council approval. I look forward to Justin and the law director providing a competent legal argument to support their position that the Mayor can ignore laws he doesn't want to follow because "laws passed by previous administrations do not apply to them". then explain that even if such a legal argument existed and held up, why any competent business or government would operate this way.

Thanks for your time and feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

Mike Burkons


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