Nevada County disputes parts of grand jury report about animal shelter
The process used by Nevada County to select Sammie’s Friends as the operator of the animal shelter was flawed and needs updating, the Nevada County Grand Jury states in a report.
However, a county official and a cofounder of the shelter point to discrepancies in the report, disagreeing with the grand jury’s presentation of certain facts.
The report, released late last month, states the county has no “approved policies or procedures for the efficient operation of the Purchasing Department.” Additionally, some county workers fail to receive enough training about purchasing operations and don’t follow best practices.
The grand jury recommends county staff research best procurement practices and create written policies. It also states the county should assess its need for training and implement a training plan.
According to county officials, staff has been updating those policies for months — long before the grand jury released its report.
“As the grand jury states in their report, county procurement practices are complex,” CEO Alison Lehman said in an email. “We appreciate the grand jury’s report and recommendations around updating the county’s procurement process with procurement best practices.”
A decision last year by the Sheriff’s Office to work with Placer County, not Sammie’s Friends, outraged the community. It led to a massive gathering at the Foothills Event Center and ultimately a decision by former Sheriff Keith Royal to forego Placer County and again partner with Sammie’s Friends.
The grand jury report details points in time during the selection process, noting issues that arose. It’s some of those issues county staff and Cheryl Wicks, a cofounder of Sammie’s Friends, dispute.
For example, the report states applicants were required to break out costs for different aspects of shelter operations. Sammie’s Friends submitted an “all or none” cost proposal, but failed to provide separate costs.
That’s incorrect, Wicks said.
“We did fulfill the requirements for the request for proposal and filled out all three parts,” she added.
A review panel composed of evaluators was created by the Sheriff’s Office. Two of those evaluators asked to be recused but were refused. Additionally, the county failed to provide copies of the evaluators written comments, the report states.
Taylor Wolfe, administrative analyst for the county, said in an email that the Purchasing Department knows of no evaluator who wanted to recuse themselves. She also disputes the report’s claim about the evaluators’ written comments.
“The county does have the evaluators’ original scoring sheets,” Wolfe said. “The Purchasing Department fully cooperated with the grand jury’s investigation and provided all documentation as requested by the grand jury.”
Referencing Royal’s decision to work exclusively with Sammie’s Friends, the report states it could find no explanation for canceling the request for proposal and working solely with Sammie’s Friends.
“The county retains the right to cancel an RFP process for any reason,” Wolfe said. “After careful consideration of the responses, the county chose to cancel this RFP process and negotiate directly with the existing provider (Sammie’s Friends) to ensure a timely contract renewal and continuity of required services.”
Contacted Wednesday, grand jury foreman Gordon Mangel said he was limited in what he could say. According to Mangel, all information in the report was verified. He called it 100% factual.
“All I can say is what’s in the report,” Mangel added. “Some things we asked for, we didn’t get.”
Wolfe said Purchasing employees attend trainings and receive certifications when necessary. The deputy purchasing agent has worked for the county for a year and is working toward certified public procurement officer status.
Two buyers work under the purchasing agent and deputy. They’ll be trained on the new policies once the Board of Supervisors approves them, expected soon.
Despite her disagreement with one part of the report, Wicks said she’s pleased the grand jury examined the county selection process involving Sammie’s Friends.
Wicks noted last year’s process frustrated her. She helped rally the community in support of Sammie’s Friends — a move the grand jury report says led supervisors to receive significant feedback.
“It’s all turned out better than ever,” Wicks said. “At this point, I don’t have really anything to complain about.”
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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