Commissioners Put Hood Richardson in a Box
The purchasing practices of all governments are always subject to controversy. Whether it is the Feds paying six hundred dollars for a hammer, or Beaufort County paying four hundred thousand dollars for a six acre dredge pond at Wrights Creek. That's right, Brinn and his buddies paid $69,000 for a dredge pond at Wright's Creek. Makes one think, does it not?
During my 23 years as a Beaufort County commissioner, several people have complained to me about their inability to do business with Beaufort County Government. I believe purchasing practices in several parts of Beaufort County Government have not always been on the up and up. I have heard stories of kick backs in the form of money and other gratuities to simply someone's good buddy being favored above all others. In most cases there is truth behind the complaints.
The one complaint that has been persistent is the "lock out". That is the company offering to provide the service or goods never gets a chance to bid or to present its product or pricing to Beaufort County. Bureaucrats have their mind made up and see no point in wasting their (actually your) valuable time meeting, and dealing with this salesman who is never going to get the business anyway.
Some complainers have insisted that I enter complaints on their behalf. I have never entered a complaint on behalf of a potential vendor. I have advised them on various strategies that may help them get their foot in the door.
Why have I never lodged a complaint? There are two main reasons. First, anyone who complains to upper management, or the Board of Commissioners is virtually guaranteeing they will never get the business. County employees may be forced to give the business to someone else other than "that troublemaker who exposed their failure to do a good job". They will never get this business. That is how bureaucracy's work. Corporate bureaucracys work the same way.
The second reason is that I am known as a trouble maker by staff. If I complain, and am successful, that staffer is going to be targeted by other county employees and other commissioners to not comply with my requests.
Purchasing practices came to a head during the September commissioners meeting, when I exposed several large holes in Beaufort County's purchasing practices. One of these is the lack of oversight and audit by the purchasing department.
Commissioners Booth, Langley, Brinn, Evans and Waters thought they were making me look bad when they insisted that I give examples with names of past complaints about some really bad purchasing practices in order to make my point.
Now, let us see; I am in a public meeting that is being filmed, and I am requested to start naming vendors who have complained about purchasing practices. What could possibly go wrong? For one thing, the vendor could say Richardson did not know what he was talking about and that he never complained. Secondly, that vendor would be black listed, and could never do business with Beaufort County.
The charges about "lock out are true". The finance department admitted they do not keep lists by category of companies and people who want to do business w with Beaufort County. All of this was
supposed to go away when we hired a purchasing agent about three years ago. Finance admits to paper shuffling, but not to actually running a purchasing department.
Does Beaufort county have a purchasing swamp?