Was ‘sweet’ deal for official’s wife ethical? - East Valley Tribune: News

Was ‘sweet’ deal for official’s wife ethical?

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Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 10:41 pm

The wife of a top Scottsdale fire official was awarded a $3,000 contract to produce chocolate candies distributed to every city employee with an awards ceremony invitation.

The 3,100 chocolates featuring the city logo also included a phone number and e-mail address for Lisa Randall, owner of An Occasion for Sweets and wife of Steve Randall, assistant fire chief.

The invitation led one city employee to question whether the contract and Randall’s advertising violated the city’s ethics policy. The contract was awarded without a competitive bid.

Scottsdale says the action did not violate the city’s procurement code or the employee ethics policy.

“The question was ‘Is this a conflict of interest?’ and the answer is ‘no,’ ” Scottsdale spokesman Pat Dodds said. “Steve Randall and the fire department had nothing to do with the purchase.”

In September, Scottsdale also paid Lisa Randall $850 to produce chocolates with the city logo for the Arizona League of Cities and Towns conference hosted by Scottsdale. Dodds said that contract also did not violate the procurement code or ethics policy.

Lisa Randall was reached by the Tribune, but said she would decline to comment out of respect for the city.

The city’s procurement code says for contracts under $5,000, the city can choose to seek competition or directly purchase any commodities or services requested.

The city’s ethics policy states that employees should “avoid even the appearance of misconduct or impropriety.”

The policy states that an employee cannot be involved in city business involving a family member or personal relationship, and a personal relationship cannot influence a city business decision or action.

Dodds said none of these applied in this case.

Maggie Wilson, an employee in the city’s communications and public affairs department, wrote a two-paragraph note Dec. 19 to a city e-mail account meant to allow employees to comment on ethics concerns.

Wilson asked if bids were received and if this violated the city’s ethics policy. “And, why is Lisa being allowed to advertise on each piece of chocolate? This appears very inappropriate.”

Wilson said she met with Assistant City Manager David Ellison to discuss the issue.

“I appreciated that they sat down with me, and they thanked me for bringing the issue forward,” Wilson said.

Wilson did not say whether she still felt the invitation was inappropriate.

Lisa Randall was paid 90 cents per chocolate. As part of the contract, she produced milk, dark and white chocolate, a gold ribbon and attached the chocolate to the invitation.

Eniketi Voss, a human resources representative and member of the awards ceremony’s six-person planning committee, administered the contract. Voss referred all questions to Dodds.

The 37th annual City Manager’s Awards of Excellence ceremony program held today will cost the city about $28,000. That includes the invitations, breakfast, the awards, live music and decorations. Ten awards will be given out at the ceremony.

Last month, the Tribune reported that former parks and recreation director Judy Weiss retired after the city learned she tried to give a $5,000 Web site design contract to her sister. The city found that the deal was improper, and the contract never went through.

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