DAS Veterans Home Bidding Process Questioned

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DES MOINES, Iowa - The Legislative Oversight Committee will reconvene Monday.

The topic of discussion will be the construction contract for the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.

Department of Administrative Services officials have been regular guests in front of the Oversight Committee this year. This time, legislators want to know if some at the DAS rigged the bidding process.

“The construction community in the Des Moines area is fairly tightly knit,” DAS spokesperson Caleb Hunter said to explain the relationship between Mike Carroll, the former head of DAS and area contractors.

Legislators looking into allegations of inappropriate bidding practices, describe it another way.

“You know, we`re not running a family business here. We can`t just hire our friends and family and think that we`re going to get the best product,” the chair of the oversight committee state Sen. Janet Peterson said.

Peterson has questions about a 2011 request for proposals for construction at the Iowa Veterans Home. It`s less than one page and never makes reference to the specific project.

“Typically we have a more defined RFP process, they`re more specific, it was the time frame we were under to apply for federal funding that dictated the terms of that specific RFP,” Hunter explained.

The Request for Proposal was posted for just six days.

Doug Woodley, the former COO at DAS wrote the RFP and awarded the contract to OPN Architects.

The initial award for that contract was $65,000 but the amount sky-rocketed when the contract was amended.

“I believe the total ended up being $2.6 million,” Hunter said.

It wasn`t the first time the contract had been awarded. Schemmer Associates won the original bid, but it was later cancelled.

“The contract was cancelled because it was over budget,” Das spokesperson Caleb Hunter said.

A representative from Schemmer will tell lawmakers why he thinks the contract was cancelled when he appears before the Oversight Committee on Monday. He`s one of seven people scheduled to answer questions about that so-called tight knit community, where some say cronyism ruled.

The committee is using its subpoena power for the first time.

Five of the seven witnesses at Monday’s meeting were subpoenaed to appear.

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