The Anaheim City Council is set Tuesday to examine city contracting and purchasing policies, a discussion that will take place after revelations of questionable outsourcing decisions in the city’s building division.
Voice of OC recently published articles showing that plan review firms had received tens of thousands of dollars in outsourced work while the firms’ officials held positions of authority in the building division.
The city sent most of its outsourced plan review work to a firm owned by Scott Fazekas while Fazekas was under contract as the head of the city’s building division. Fazekas resigned his post earlier this month after a Voice of OC article revealed the potential conflict.
And before Fazekas, the firm Charles Abbott Associates received most of the outsourced plan check work while company employee Steve Ahuna was the city’s contract plan review supervisor.
A good-government expert said the two situations indicate a troubling trend in the building division and show that the city is not doing enough to safeguard against conflicts of interest.
“I don’t know if two is a pattern, but it shows to me a little inattention to the potential of conflicts. If you see it once — and you see it twice — there may be more,” said Tracy Westen, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies.
Mayor Tom Tait, who placed the item on the council agenda, did not return a phone call seeking comment. In an earlier interview, however, Tait said the city needed to be concerned about public perceptions of conflict of interest.
In addition to questionable outsourcing practices, a city staff report attached to the agenda item notes that City Manager Thomas Wood has authority to sign city contracts of up to $250,000 without City Council approval.
Wood’s signing authority is high compared with other public agencies. Orange County, a larger bureaucracy, allows its CEO a signing authority of up to $50,000. Santa Ana, comparable in size to Anaheim, allows only a $25,000 signing authority.
Fazekas’ employment contract never went to the City Council because the contract was for just under $100,000.
A Voice of OC article earlier this year revealed that the city had contracted with alleged con artist Chaz Haba to run a lithium-ion battery station near a children’s playground.
The experiment ended in failure, and the battery station that Haba’s firm had been running was left in an explosive state, according to the company’s former director of engineering, David Nyberg. The battery station has since been turned off.
Haba’s contract never went before the City Council because it too was just under $100,000.