The Purchasing Department in the Hamblen County Mayor's Office handled the recent bid process for the Cherokee Park Boat Ramp. Bids were opened on January 8.
I went to the Mayor's Office on Friday, January 11, and asked to see the Boat Ramp file. I was immediately told by Purchasing Director Sharee Long that I could not see the bids that had been opened.
Ms. Long said the bids would not be public records until they were presented to the Finance Committee today.
[NOTE: To put it mildly, Ms. Long and her boss County Mayor David Purkey don't care for me and don't like to have to answer for their handling of county finances.
Their anger goes all the way back to 2002 when I pushed for state auditors to come in and do the annual county audit. The very first audit performed by state auditors--instead of the local county auditing firm--produced more findings (27) than the audit of any other county in the state.]
On Friday, I went ahead and reviewed the portion of the file that Ms. Long thought was "open record," made a list of the copies that I wanted, and then asked again to see the actual bids.
Ms. Long again stated that they were not public and would not be public until today. After I insisted that they were public, she finally said she just didn't care and handed me the bids to review. I recommended that she talk with county attorney Rusty Cantwell about what is and is not public, and she replied that I got the documents and not to "start with her."
I have sent an e-mail to all county commissioners and copied to the County Mayor and several of his employees including Ms. Long outlining Ms. Long's unprofessional handling of my request and initial denials of access to what are clearly public documents.
NOTE: I understand that all bids will be rejected and the project will be re-bid with an architect and with the added requirement that all bidders be licensed contractors.