County admits Brown Act violation

A Butte County lawyer told the Board of Supervisors that it violated the Brown Act at its May 8 meeting when the supervisors awarded a construction bid without first allowing public comment on the issue.

As a result, the item will be put back on the supes’ May 22 agenda for the proper discussion and vote. It’s the second time in recent weeks that the board has had to reconsider an item because of a Brown Act violation.

The snafu that was brought to County Counsel Bruce Alpert’s attention by Bob Sharkey, a park supervisor with the Feather River Recreation and Parks District. He said he was already upset with the way the board was handling the bid—a $3.5 million proposal to build the long-awaited Southside Oroville Community Center. So he attended the May 8 meeting, hoping to air his grievances to the supes.

But after Sharkey never got the chance, he met with Alpert, who agreed that the board should have allowed public comment on the item, Sharkey said.

Sharkey said he was miffed to learn that county General Services Chairman Mike Pyeatt and his sub-committee had decided to deny a bid to build the project from Carey Construction, an Oroville-based business, re-bid it, and award the contract to Trent Construction, which is based in Red Bluff.

“So much of the reason we’re excited about the new community center is because we can invest in the local economy building it,” Sharkey said. “And now, we’re going out of town to have it built.”

Pyeatt acknowledged that the county awarded the permit to Carey Construction after the mandated bidding process last fall, but since the county failed to include all improvements of the land and structure in the original bid, the cost of the construction increased after the contract was already awarded. County lawyers told Pyeatt that changing the scope of the project after the contract was awarded would be against the law, so the county had to re-bid the whole project.

“Basically, the structure of the bid was bad, so we had to do it again,” Pyeatt said.

This time, it happened to be a Red Bluff company that turned in the lowest bid, at $3.5 million, Pyeatt said.

But Sharkey isn’t buying it.

“Something about this smells bad,” he said. “I still have a lot of unanswered questions about this.”

In April, the supervisors were forced to legitimize the firing of Development and Planning Services Director Tom Parilo following accusations that they had decided to let him go during a closed meeting.