Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Police Purchase of Uniforms Questioned Piecemeal Approach Avoided Existing Contract but May Have Cost More, Officials Claim

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Police Purchase of Uniforms Questioned Piecemeal Approach Avoided Existing Contract but May Have Cost More, Officials Claim

Article excerpt

Questions about Pittsburgh Bureau of Police financial procedures have led some city officials to renew concerns raised last year about the purchase, for more than $60,000, of uniforms from a Kentucky company with no city contract, despite the existence of a competitively bid pact with a Lawrenceville firm.

The bureau last year sought to put uniform purchases through in piecemeal fashion, rather than in larger amounts that would have required competitive bids, until city Councilman Patrick Dowd forced a public airing of issues. At an October council meeting, then- police Chief Nate Harper attributed the choice of vendor to Tammy Davis, second-in-command in the bureau's personnel and finance office, who is now off on paid administrative leave.

Last year, Mr. Dowd said on Friday, "a lot of people explained to me that [the off-contract uniform buy] was an isolated issue, this wasn't a common practice."

But questions about bureau financial practices that have emerged since prompted him to rethink that. "At this point, I certainly have to wonder if there aren't other issues."

The city began a contract with North Eastern Uniforms & Equipment Inc., based on 51st Street, in 2010. That contract runs through June 30.

So why did the city pay $60,329 in 2012 for purchases from Galls, a uniform company based in Lexington, Ky., that is a subsidiary of the global giant Aramark?

Assistant Chief of Operations Maurita Bryant said she became frustrated with North Eastern several years into the contract. Pittsburgh police officers would sometimes ask North Eastern for one brand of uniform only to receive another, she said. "It was like a little switcheroo thing."

North Eastern CEO George Kenny disputed Chief Bryant's claims, saying former Assistant Chief of Operations William Bochter "changed some of the specifications and the rest of the department wasn't aware of it."

City officials asked Allegheny County to bid out a new contract that would include tight specifications for city police uniforms. The county handles competitive bidding for the city.

The county sent invitations to more than 100 companies and gave them an initial due date of March 21, 2012, which was postponed several times, with April 25 being the final due date.

But on March 30, as the county awaited bids, Mr. Harper sent a memo to all bureau personnel informing them that Galls would take orders and measurements for uniforms on April 3, 4 and 5.

Mr. Harper tried to explain that decision at the October council meeting. Flanked by Ms. Davis, Chief Bryant and bureau finance manager Sandra J. Ganster, the chief said: "Galls, who said that they could supply us with our uniforms, was contacted by Tammy Davis, so we began purchasing uniforms from Galls without a contract in place."

Warner Macklin III, crisis manager for Ms. …

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