Is Mission Viejo a “closed city” to contractors?

For over a year I have monitored contracts issued by Mission Viejo staff that raises a flag. Under the pretense of “streamlining” of consultant contracts we have empowered the city manager to execute agreements for a variety of professional services that are under $30,000. All contracts above $30,000 will still require City Council approval. These contracts are awarded to those whose names appear on a pre-qualified listing.

I have the Mission Viejo 6 page listing of City Consultants that contains around 300 firms. Under the category designated as “Construction Design Services” you will only find two names. Richard Fisher Associates (located on E. First Street in Santa Ana) and RJM Design Group from San Juan Capistrano.

While I have addressed my concerns over the huge discrepancy favoring RJM at a city council meeting, true to form the mayor couldn’t wait for my three minutes to end and move to the next speaker.

After submitting two public records requests, and visiting our Records Coordinator, I discovered the following facts. Since Jan 2006, through April of 2010, we either issued or made payments against 28 “no bid” purchase orders to RJM Design Group totaling $1,103,650.98

In the same timeframe we located six purchase orders with Richard Fisher Assoc totaling $76,357 (rounded off) . Source. City of MV Records Coordinator hard copies.
In reviewing the two vendors I would opine that Richard Fisher is qualified to have undertaken the same contracts awarded to the favored vendor whose pricing is not challenged.

A disturbing fact uncovered recently is that we have even given RJM Design authority to negotiate with the landowner of the Casta Golf Course. Yes, the same golf course related to Measure D. In this case the city is pressing a CIP to spend almost $4 million to add one tennis court, lighting and remodel a clubhouse in which the proposed project requires cooperation from American Golf due to added parking on land that we do not own.

Note: I seem to recall council member Schlicht asking for a status report on that land but not getting a response.

Page 133 of 159 package contains a Feb 17, 2010 email from Larry Ryan (RJM) to our city manager Dennis Wilberg and two senior staff.

“Good morning,
I just wanted to let you know that I have had a lengthy conversation with Christine Chong of American Golf. I believe we have made some progress in explaining our situation and our goal of gaining either an easement or title to a portion of their land adjacent to the Tennis Complex expansion…”
He continues “Christine briefly explained the realities of their economic situation and how difficult it might be for their lender to simply hand over approximately 3 acres of land…”

On April 1st, page 145, Larry Ryan sends Christine another email.
“Hello Christine,
I’m sorry to bother you but I desperately need to get in touch with you. As previously discussed we are assisting the city of Mission Viejo and are proceeding with our project and need to confirm American Golf’s position with regards to the property in question adjacent to the Casta Del Sol golf course…”

Amazing. We rush ahead with a “special interest” project that will require land that we do not own, a potential delaying or cost driven aspect of the proposed CIP that I do not recall being shared with the voters and permit a contractor to apply pressure to a local property owner.
This is not the first clue for me that we are a “closed city.” The other episode, covered many years ago by the LA Times, will not enter the picture today.

About Larry Gilbert