ROCKVILLE - In a report turned into the mayor and council on July 31, outgoing purchasing manager Ken Hayslette calls the city’s current procurement practices outdated and antagonistic to change. In the report, Hayslette, who was hired a purchasing manager in April 2013, says there are city employees and contractors who do not follow procurement practices, employees who do not understand the procurement process, and a culture of inconsistent and abusive practices.
“The primary obstacle to implementing a more efficient and effective procurement function is the city’s culture of antagonistic opposition to change…It took time for the city’s culture to develop and it will take time for the culture to change, however most of the city leadership directly and indirectly communicates their pessimism that the city can or will make any significant positive cultural changes within the next decade,” said Hayslette.
In the 30 page report, Hayslette notes the current Purchasing Code is outdated, its last significant update having been published in 2011. He said the code does not address procurement challenges and issues that have occurred during the last decade.
“A secondary challenge to implementing a more efficient and effective procurement function is the city’s culture of non-accountability and none responsibility. It appears that only a few individuals, usually in the lower tiers of the organizational hierarchy are ever held accountable for their actions or inactions,” Hayslette said. “When one person circumvents the procurement process without consequence, then everyone else wants to also, and many do with impunity.”
City manager Barbara Matthews said the city commissioned the report more than a year ago.
Matthews said s he asked Hayslette in May to perform an internal review of all city procurement processes and procedures. Hayslette was given a year to write the report, which was to be presented at a later date. The report was turned in to the mayor and council the day Hayslette chose to resign.
“There was some discussion of retaining a consultant to assist the city with a review of its procurement processes and procedures. The mayor and council ultimately directed staff to review the report and make a full presentation to the mayor and council within 60 days. Staff will provide the requested information at a future mayor and council meeting,” Matthews said.
Councilmember Beryl Feinberg worked for the Montgomery County government as a budget manager for 12 years. She is currently the deputy director/chief operating officer in the Department of General Services for the county. Feinberg said she was deeply concerned when she read Hayslette’s report. At the Aug. 11 mayor and council meeting, Feinberg introduced a motion to hire outside counsel to review and make recommendations on the report. The motion failed by one vote. A later motion to have city staff review and make recommendations based on the report passed.
“This goes along with my concerns that I’ve been voicing since I’ve been on the council about internal controls. We keep stumbling on things the city shouldn’t be stumbling on. We need to have internal controls in our financial department and proper procedures in our procurement department. We’re a better city than having to have all these surprises and I look forward to the day we’re not given all these surprises in this manner,” Mayor Bridget Newton said.
According to several sources, senior management at City Hall asked staff members to keep the contents and presence of the report private.
“I certainly hope there has not been an effort to keep anything that should be public out of the public view. This was not a confidential report; there is nothing in it that names names. We need to be as transparent as we say we want to be. We need to act in that manner,” Newton said.
In the report, Hayslette calls for the city to act as solution finders instead of gate keepers. Rockville city activist, Drew Powell, said he agrees with the statement.
“We would rather see a situation where the city of Rockville embraces solutions instead of certain city staffers acting as gate keepers, trying to prevent information from getting out into the public,” Powell said. “We have seen in so many cases where the citizens are aware of the issue and step forward. We have forged commissions and there are a lot of people in the city who are willing to dedicate their expertise to contribute to solution...We all have a seat at the table as well and I do believe that some city staff and elected officials have tried to remove our seat from the table.”
Powell has not reviewed the report in its entirety but said he looks forward to reviewing it.
“I think it’s important for the report to be reviewed by consultants instead of bounced around within city hall. I think an outside consultant would add a lot of value. As far as the contents of the reports, those are serious matters and Rockville needs to come into compliance on those matters and it does concern me that certain council members want to keep the wraps on this,” Powell said.
The Montgomery County Sentinel asked for copies of Hayslette’s report, but the city, while acknowledging the request for the report, has not yet provided a copy of the report and asked for all questions regarding the report to be sent via email to the city.
The Sentinel obtained copies of the report from other sources.