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Posted on November 14, 2017
The City of Tallahassee Auditor’s investigation into contracts awarded to family members of City Commissioner Nancy Miller did not identify any evidence that John Buss, Miller’s husband, inappropriately used his position to secure a personal benefit for his brother through the award of work to DPB &Associates.
However, the audit found the approval of those awards to DPB &Associates did represent the appearance of a conflict of interest.
In addition, the audit found one of the 12 employees interviewed indicated the relationship between the AGM and DPB & Associates did impact his thoughts when evaluating proposals from DPB & Associates. The audit stated that this finding “is demonstrative that the relationship can result in an unintentional bias in the selection process.”
Tallahassee Reports first broke the story about the contracts and possible conflicts in July.
The audit stated that “when these matters were brought to their attention, City management responded by immediately revising the City’s Purchasing Procedures to preclude any City employee from developing, recommending, or approving a procurement requisition, contract, purchase order, or pay request for any good or service from a business entity for which the employee may have a conflict of interest.”
“Those revised procedures provide that a conflict of interest exists when an employee has, or appears to have, a financial or personal relationship with a vendor. A personal relationship includes, but is not limited to, marriage, family, or other close relationship that could reasonably be perceived as a conflict or create an actual conflict of interest.”
The audit also highlighted how perceived conflicts of interest can impact government actions.
“Similar to actual conflicts of interest, perceived conflicts of interest can erode the public’s trust in a government’s procurement practices and activities. For that reason, in those future instances where a potential conflict of interest exists in regard to an acquisition of goods or services, the evaluation, selection, negotiation, and authorization and approvals processes should be conducted by appropriate employees other than the employee that has the potential conflict of interest.”
The audit did not identify or become aware of any issues or matters during our review to indicate (a) DPB & Associates was not qualified for the work awarded; (b) the amounts awarded to the firm for the work were not fair or reasonable; (c) the infrastructure built based on the firm’s engineering work was not adequate; or (d) the engineering services provided by the firm were not adequate or sufficient.