Wallace Group no-bid contract on lame duck agenda
November 24, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara is slated to give a no-bid contract to two engineering firms for consulting services before he gives up power over the city’s agenda and council.
Tuesday’s Arroyo Grande City Council meeting marks the final council schedule and meeting Ferrara will control. The 10th item on a packed consent agenda is a proposed six-month extension of a two year contract for both the Wallace Group and Water Systems Consulting.
Though the agenda says there is no cost involved in extending the two agreements for on-call engineering services, in the past 12 months the city has paid the firms over $200,000. From Dec. 1 through Nov. 30, the city paid Wallace Group $110,564 and Water Systems Consulting $91,518, according to city records.
Ferrara came under fire this summer after allegations he attempted to coverup an alleged sex scandal between then city manager Steve Adams and a subordinate employee. Ferrara and Adams later claimed police officers lied about an incident involving Adams and the subordinate in an attempt to manipulate salary negotiations.
In addition to allegations of a coverup, questions about mismanagement and waste of public funds resulted in Ferrara being unseated after 16 years on the council.
In particular, the public questioned Ferarra’s leadership role on the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Board. The sanitation district serves the residents of the Oceano Community Service District, Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach and is governed by a three person board consisting of one representative from each community.
In 2012, the state water board determined that a more than 384,000 sewage spill was due to careless and improper maintenance of the district by its administrator John Wallace and his engineering firm the Wallace Group. The state then levied a $1.1 million fine.
Ferrara stood by Wallace and the Wallace Group claiming a San Luis Obispo Grand Jury report that found a conflict of interest in Wallace’s administration of the plant was faulty and arguing against the state water board’s findings of mismanagement.
In Feb. 2013, amid demands for a complete audit of Wallace’s financial management, Wallace resigned as administrator of the sanitation district.
Before he stepped down, the sanitation district regularly exceeded its more than $6 million annual budget. Under a new administrator, the district’s costs are less than 50 percent of its budget, district records show.
Tuesdays Arroyo Grande City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the council chambers at 215 E. Branch Street.
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