Was Mission Viejo’s Rose Parade float design commenced before Contract award?

In reviewing current and future Mission Viejo City expenditures, our proposal to enter a float in the Jan 1, 2009 Rose Parade didn’t pass the smell test, especially when council creates an Ad Hoc team that can meet outside the access or view by taxpayers as they engage in preliminary project recommendations. It is worth noting that in that capacity, they lack approval authority without full council participation in Open Session.

Let me now provide an update to an earlier post based on Public Records requests and my phone call to Timothy W. Estes, president of Fiesta Parade Floats this morning whose firm was selected by our city council.

However, we have a minor problem. One of my Public Record requests was to see our float Contract yet, to date, there is no Contract for the float.

So I visited our records management clerk this morning and paid for a copy of a Fiesta Parade Floats “Timeline For The Process In Producing A Float For The City Of Mission Viejo For The 2009 Rose Parade.”

Under item #1 it reads that “the design process normally takes 2 to 6 weeks. Once a design is finalized Fiesta would submit the desired design and title to the Tournament of Roses Association for there approval.”

Skipping ahead to point #5 it reads: “By mid-summer the float is quickly taking shape.” Hello. Today is August 8th and no Contract is available for the public to question or city council to review?

I previously made a valid Public Record request to see all e-mail communication between the Ad Hoc members, our city manager and Fiesta Floats. Based on the ethics training class I attended at San Juan City Hall yesterday they are all within the scope of valid public record requests. Our Records Management clerk told me that all communication was by telephone either with, or by, an office secretary.  There is nothing in writing?? Side note. Over 40 years ago I had office pads that read AVO. Avoid Verbal Orders. I guess that simple back up protection no longer applies for some people.

So at 11:45 this morning I contacted Fiesta Parade Floats President Tim Estes, introduced myself as a blog reporter and resident of the city of Mission Viejo interested in the status of our proposed entry. I complimented him for their former Mission Viejo award winning floats of 25 years ago.

In reviewing his MV timeline that I purchased this morning Tim clarified the text by saying “the design is first sent to their CLIENT before submission to the Tournament Association.” That makes sense.
One problem. While Tim admitted that some design work has begun, I asked Tim if he had any written communication to protect his firm in the event of a cancellation. At that point he said it appears my call is negative in nature and that I should refer all my calls to his CLIENT.  I told Tim that both the city manager and his assistant were both out of the office and unavailable. I suggested that his firm is highly respected and that I would expect that he would have something in writing to protect his preliminary design efforts.

Folks. You can’t have a CLIENT if you don’t have a Contract.  Any prior agreement on behalf of Mission Viejo were with the Mission Viejo Company, not the city who has never had our own float. And sadly, this is a city government float, using public funds, not a private or Service club where you can cut corners by skipping public and elected official approvals.
On the other hand was he telling me the truth? Does he in fact have the city of Mission Viejo as a 2008 CLIENT?

The city has already purchased over $6,000 worth of front row seats and special parking for the parade which can be covered under the city manager’s cap. But starting design on a float, estimated at around $300,000, is a different story.

This city council has not voted to authorize any funds towards this project yet apparently work has been authorized by someone in power that needs to be held accountable.  How can we cancel Fiesta Parade Floats efforts without a Contract? Therefore, I would argue that any expenditures by Fiesta were strictly a gamble hoping to get a Contract. As Fiesta is an established and successful business, I told president Estes that I would expect his having something in writing to cover his project efforts.

Dream on Larry. Our city council will give them a blank check and still meet the proposed timeline. It’s debatable to involve the PPIC or the DA’s office on this activity by council members who, based on this example, know nothing about Contracts.

Note: Prior to writing this post I left a message on our city manager’s cell phone and am still awaiting his reply.

UPDATE: The city manager just returned my call. To view our discussion see comments.

About Larry Gilbert