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L.A. County agency's contract probe leads to reforms, discipline

January 23, 2013 |  6:43 pm

A Los Angeles County agency said it is implementing reforms after an investigation raised serious issues about the process used to award a $1.75-million car leasing contract.

Investigators with the county's auditor-controller office found that staff with the Community Development Commission did a "substantially inadequate" job of looking for potential bidders before selecting Enterprise Rent-a-Car for the five-year sole source contract, and then gave false information to a television reporter who questioned the process.

Elisa Vasquez, a commission spokeswoman, said agency officials so far believe the Enterprise contract was an isolated case that does not speak to systemic issues.

But she said the commission has undertaken a restructuring of the procurement division and is in the process of hiring someone from outside the agency to fill the new position of procurement officer, "whose sole purpose is to ensure procurement competitiveness and compliance."

Vasquez said the department had disciplined staff as a result of the investigation, but could not give details because it is a personnel matter. The agency would not disclose if the unnamed contract analyst mentioned in the report was still in that position.

The contract did not go through a full bidding process. Nor was it advertised on the agency's website. Staff members emailed 16 companies to invite their interest, but investigators found that some of the firms had no "realistic potential" to provide a leased fleet to the county. Furthermore, the agency did not contact other companies that might have had the capacity to provide the fleet the commission was seeking, the review found.

Documentation submitted to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said the agency had reached out to about 50 potential vendors. When a reporter with KCET-TV asked who the vendors were, a contract analyst created a list to make it appear that the department had reached out to 50 companies. The commission is also clarifying its policies to ensure that all contracts over $10,000 are posted on its website, Vasquez said, and will be implementing a more comprehensive corrective plan within 30 days.

The auditor-controller's investigation also looked into potential influence by Enteprise's lobbying firm Englander Knabe & Allen. Matt Knabe, a partner in the firm, is the son of county Supervisor Don Knabe. The investigators interviewed Matt Knabe and staff from the agency and Enterprise and found no evidence that Knabe or anyone else from his firm had tried to influence the contract award, according to the report issued Friday.

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-- Abby Sewell at the County Hall of Administration
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