Mayor: Purchasing probe needed

A week after Accounts Commissioner John Franck requested State Comptroller Alan Q. Hevesi investigate the purchasing practices conducted for a controversial Charter Review Commission mailing, Mayor Valerie Keehn has asked the comptroller to look at the city's purchasing practices as a whole.

Keehn said the taxpayers of Saratoga Springs were not being well served in recent months by a few instances in which competitive bidding was not conducted. She gave two examples: the $36,000 extension of a water line on Route 29 that did not go out to bid because a contractor was already on site, and the construction of a fire-control system in the city-owned Church Street parking lot that was passed without bids because it was an emergency.

Keehn voted for the projects in both cases.

I voted ahead with them although I did raise some concerns, she said.

"Whatever that sprinkler system has to do with this mailing, I have no idea," said Franck after the mayor's Tuesday, Dec. 5, press conference.

The mailing, which was sent out by the Charter Review Commission, was meant to inform residents about various elements of the city's proposed charter amendments. Franck and other commissioners and residents state laws governing financial disclosure."

About 10,000 fliers were sent out to all registered voter households in Saratoga Springs, most of them reaching residents the day before Election Day. Franck estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 guides have been returned to City Hall.

The timing, content and the purchase of the mailer without City Council approval make the voter guide suspect, said Franck.

"All purchases of more than $1,499 require a requisition be completed by the purchaser and forwarded to the purchasing department for the issuance of a purchase order," Franck said in his letter to Hevesi. "To date this process has not been followed."

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