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Correspondences reveal Joplin city manager went against advice o - KOAM TV 7

Correspondences reveal Joplin city manager went against advice of city finance director and attorney

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City Attorney Peter Edwards City Attorney Peter Edwards
Joplin, MO -

Could the City of Joplin get into "trouble," of sorts, with the Missouri State Auditor?  That question was on at least one councilman's mind.  The city usually asks for competitive bids from the public, when it comes to goods and services.  But some organizations and cities are allowed to "jump-in" on other bids.  It's called a cooperative purchase agreement program.  Some city officials are questioning whether it was the safest thing for Joplin recently.

You're about to read what those city officials typed in some e-mails that KOAM/KFJX obtained through the Sunshine Law.

City Councilman Ryan Stanley says it was his idea to lease a $140,000 new lawn mower for Schifferdecker Golf Course through the cooperative purchase agreement program.  The city's parks and recreation director told city officials he wanted a lawn mower that uses biodegradable oil, less harsh on the golf greens in the event of a leak, and with a seat in the middle, which is most familiar with workers.

"These consortiums are becoming kind of a new way for cities to buy capital equipment because it's kind of doing a competitive bidding process for you," says Stanley.

The City of Joplin has rules for cooperative purchase agreements, which says goods and services can skip the bidding process if there's only one source.  The city's finance director disagreed, saying, "The Purchase of the golf equipment requested does not qualify as a sole source."  She added, "A sole source truly means that no other manufacturers makes the equipment at all."

"I have a parks director that has a background in golf, I have a golf pro that has a background in golf.  And both are telling me that Jacobsen is the brand that we want with the features and the benefits that we want," says Stanley.

The city's finance director also said, "...We have to have items to compare to ensure we are getting the best financing terms."  City Attorney Peter Edwards said, "We need to bid out both components---equipment and lease."  City Manager Sam Anselm wrote, "My bigger concern is getting the right equipment they need..."

Shortly before city council voted on the lease, City Attorney Edwards wrote to the city manager, "For the record the agreement is extremely one-sided against us.  Your rush to get this done has prevented us from our normal agreement negotiations."

The city finance director said the city should pursue a lease-to-own option because of a lower interest rate.  A different lease, though, was passed by city council.  

"Yay, we get to keep the equipment, maybe we get a lower interest rate.  But maybe we're paying more for it, so we own it at the end," says Stanley.

Councilman Dan McCreary and Mayor Mike Seibert voted against the deal, with the mayor saying to us by e-mail that council should have taken the advice of the city attorney.

 The Missouri State Auditor will soon be starting a follow-up audit on the city, and the auditor's office knows about this debate.  Both Joplin's city attorney and city manager declined an on-camera interview request.

Click here for the full documents we obtained, and here for Joplin's purchasing and procurement policies and procedures.

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