Council wants more ‘teeth’ requiring vendors to disclose ties with city
The City Council has held for further study legislation proposed by Mayor Scott Avedisian that would require vendors doing business with the city to name any of their employees who also work for the city.
The intent of the amendment to purchasing regulations is to avoid conflicts of interest and create more transparency, said Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono, sponsor of the ordinance on behalf of Avedisian. It would put the responsibility on the vendor to come forward about any city employment.
The mayor’s chief of staff, Mark Carruolo, said the information would be part of the bid package, so vendors will know they are liable to share the information. The ordinance already has a requirement for employees to identify themselves, so this simply would obligate the company to identify any person on their payroll who works for the city.
“It’s about leveling the playing field and making sure everyone understands the rule,” Colantuono said at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. The stipulation includes those who work for the School Department and the Warwick Sewer Authority, as they are operated under the umbrella of the city.
Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur was concerned about sub-contractors. In construction, he said, general contractors typically hire a subcontractor, and then a subcontractor will then hire another subcontractor, and so on.
“The thing we need to be sure of is, we don’t make a babysitter of the general contractor,” Ladouceur said. “I support the legislation for its intent, but I want to make sure the good contractors are not going to be penalized for the bad contractors.”
Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla, as well as Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon, felt the same, and Merolla suggested adding language that includes the future hiring of workers.
“It seems to be kind of vague as to if it’s just when they are awarded the bid or if it applies to something happening after the bid that they have an affirmative obligation to advise the city,” he said.
Colantuono agreed, saying it’s not “crystal clear.” He said it would be wise to add the words, “at the time of the bid and through the course of the contract,” to the amendment.
But Solomon said he feels the ordinance lacks teeth.
“The intent of this legislation is good, but this cannot be enforced,” he said. “If a vendor violates this provision of this statute and he has no assets, there’s no ramifications unless there’s a bond that is required for completion. I would suggest if an amendment is going to be put in place, somehow have a bond included. The taxpayers can gain financial reimbursement by going after the bond of the successful vendor.”
Again, Colantuono agreed, and suggested holding it to conduct research concerning proper penalties.
Other items were held for Feb. 20, as well, including an ordinance regarding ward representation on Warwick boards and commissions; an ordinance regarding veterans’ tax exemptions; and a resolution requesting the state cap the former “Truk-Away” Landfill. The resolution has been on the agenda since late summer.
Vella-Wilkinson, who is co-sponsoring the landfill resolution with Merolla, said that she wanted to hold it because the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has not been adhering to the prescribed procedure set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She believes the General Assembly should take action and direct DEM to follow EPA standards.
“I don’t want to go forward with a cap yet because I don’t want to do anything premature,” said Vella-Wilkinson. “I’d like to pull this and have a meeting with Councilman Merolla and provide him with the findings, and then talk to our delegates at the General Assembly, as well, to make sure that we are following the appropriate procedure.”
A resolution to approve a lease for Aspray Boat House in Pawtuxet Park to the Gaspee Day Committee was also held until Feb. 20, as Colantuono, the sponsor, said they are still waiting for insurance information from individuals looking to lease the property.
Colantuono’s resolution in support of clean air cities was unanimously approved.
“It supports clean air cities under the federal legislation with respect to the Clean Air Act,” said Colantuono.
Also, an ordinance relative to “No Parking” on the eastern side of Inman Avenue on school days from 7:15 to 8:15 a.m. and from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. passed unanimously. Vella-Wilkinson, who noted a traffic study has been completed, said the principal of St. Rose of Lima expressed concern about the area.