The Rice County Board of Commissioners meeting today had some fireworks when Sheriff Troy Dunn requested the board approve awarding the bid for a jail study following a request for proposals (RFP).  Commissioner Galen Malecha was not happy the full board was not involved in the process.

Dunn explained his initial RFP was too in depth and needed to be scaled back.  Just one bid was received from Wold Architects and Engineers of St. Paul. The current firm doing the County Government Center expansion.  The Sheriff, County Administrator, County Attorney, Board of Commissioners Chair and Vice-Chair were all involved in the decision to reject the lone bid without opening it and redo the RFP.

Malecha was clearly upset saying, "Something looks underhanded, fishy, something is not right here."  Board Chair Dave Miller interrupted Malecha saying, "Wait a minute here. Nothing's underhanded."  Malecha continued, "Absolutely", the two talked over each other before Miller continued, "If your accusing somebody of doing underhanded stuff, it wasn't underhanded.  We're trying to get the best possible facility for the taxpayers of Rice County."

Malecha then said, "By withholding information from the full Board of Commissioners.  This is not the process that needs to be followed.  He did not follow the process correctly."

Miller stated, "Mr. Docken and myself were a part of this."

"I don't care if you and Docken were a part of it." Malecha replied, "The point being how come the rest of us commissioners didn't know you were a part of it.  We did not know.  It never came before this Board of Commissioners.  Period!"

Vice-Chair of the Board of Commissioners Jeff Docken added, "I don't think anybody was trying to undermine anybody.  Here is the deal, I think that we're trying to, as Dave (Miller) had said, we're trying to make sure that we were getting what we wanted and getting what was in the request.  I think that part of the deal is, it kind of is a new, not necessarily a new process, just a continuing of the process.  I believe we asked legal about it , that we could continue in the same manner."

Malecha stated, "I'm not accusing anybody of anything.  What I'm saying is we didn't follow the proper process.  I don't want to see anybody get in trouble if we didn't follow the proper process."

Dunn asked Malecha, "I'm purely asking this,  who should I have taken it to besides the county attorney's office for that review?"

Malecha's response, "Um, obviously I'm not sure if we got the right advice there."  Miller noted, "That's your opinion."  Malecha replied, "That is my opinion and if we have to have somebody else look into it then we have to have somebody else look into it."

The Northfield Commissioner continued his assertion the entire board should have been part of the rejection of the initial RFP bid and new request for proposals for the scaled back RFP.

"If you rejected the bids then you are at zero.  When you are at zero and you start a new bid process the board of commissioners have to approve it, otherwise we wouldn't have approved the original RFP process."

Commissioner Steve Underdahl said, "In a technical term, you know, maybe it should have come before the board so we could do an official rejection of all the bids, but I gotta remind everybody too that this is not a competitive bid process.  This is a request for proposals for professional services and there's far more latitude in what's being done there."

Malecha questioned whether a vote should be taken today, but Commissioner Underdahl made the motion to approve awarding the jail facility study contract to Klein, McCarthy Architects of St. Louis Park, Mn.  Docken seconded.  The vote was 3-2 with Malecha and Jake Gillen voting in opposition.

The study became necessary after the Minnesota Department of Corrections last fall told the Sheriff the present jail could only be licensed as a 90 day facility due to some deficiencies.

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