Van Liew Summons Selectmen, Town Manager Over Public Records
Town Counsel will draft a response to Van Liew's attorney.
In court documents, Van Liew's attorney Alan D. Hoch of Groton claims Van Liew made three records requests for contracts the town entered into that did not go out to bid.
"The Plaintiff's requests for documents plainly sought all contracts executed by or on behalf of the Town of Chelmsford during fiscal years 2009-2011, inclusive, which did not go out to bid pursuant to MGL c30B, known as the Uniform Procurement Act," Hoch wrote, according to the first request.
Tricia Dzuris, the Town Manager's assistant, told Van Liew the town did not have any records matching his request. Dzuris asked Van Liew to clarify his request.
Van Liew, in his second request, again asked for "all contracts executed by or on behalf of the Town of Chelmsford which did not go out to bid prior to the awarding of any such contract or contracts for fiscal year 2009-2011, inclusive."
In response to that request, Town Manager Paul Cohen responded, "The town does not have any contracts which did not go out to bid pursuant to ... MGL c30B, in fiscal 2009, 2010, and 2011." He also wrote, "The town is not required to enter into a contract when we purchase from the state bidder list. No contracts (exist) for services that 'did not go out to bid.' "
Van Liew again requested copies of all "contracts entered into by or on behalf of the Town of Chelmsford which did not go out to bid prior to awarding any such contract or contracts for fiscal years 2009-2011, inclusive."
Cohen replied: "A review of the Board of Selectmen's records revealed a contract document between the Town of Chelmsford and Trinity EMS for emergency ambulance services...I am not aware of any other contract documents that meet your criteria."
By state law, ambulatory services are not permitted to go out to bid in order to retain the services of the lowest bidder, a result which could endanger public health and safety.
In court documents, Van Liew claims "a number of contracts were entered into without competitive bids during the time in question."
Van Liew claims contracts for studies pertaining to the Chelmsford Fire Department, and in particular the present/future Fire Department needs or capabilities, future building requirements for the Fire Department and/or sites upon which it locate future Fire Department facilities, contracts to study 40B issues relating to the town, public works contracts, and contracts pertaining to the ambulance service apart from the service itself did not go out to bid.
Cohen said those contracts in question went out to bid, and copies are available at Town Hall.
"He asks us, 'tell us how you violated the law' ," said Cohen, as to why the town could not produce the documents Van Liew asked for. "We do bid everything, there’s always a bid list and again he sues the board or me ... It's an effort to make an issue in the (selectman) campaign."
Cohen questioned why Van Liew didn't just ask for the specific contracts in question in the first place.
"It's just a way to fabricate an issue and it's coincidental it happens around the time for a campaign," he said. "Town Counsel is drafting a response and a court date will be schedule at some point, and at that point the election could be over. Just like the recall election and the ruling (months later) that the state found no ethics violations regarding 9 North Road. It's a campaign tactic."
In the court order, Van Liew seeks the records he's asking for, "costs and reasonable attorney's fees to the plaintiff" and other relief "including but limited to an order that the defendants comply with the plaintiff's future requests for public records."