Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Official Ties Scandal to County Rush to Privatize; SARASOTA: Fresh Take on Purchasing Uproar from Current Administrator Reid [Derived Headline]

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Official Ties Scandal to County Rush to Privatize; SARASOTA: Fresh Take on Purchasing Uproar from Current Administrator Reid [Derived Headline]

Article excerpt

SARASOTA: Fresh take on purchasing uproar from current administrator Reid

Signaling a major difference in philosophy from his predecessor, Sarasota County Administrator Randall Reid now blames a rush to privatize government services for last year's purchasing scandal.

Reid said that an increased reliance on contracts for goods and services -- Sarasota County spends about $300 million a year on such contracts -- was typical in many other governments as the Great Recession forced hard looks at spending.

Compounding the poorly executed attempt to push more government services into the private sector was a reluctance to acknowledge the problems that started arising, Reid said.

"People have to admit that what they created is not working as well as it could be," Reid said.

It was the first time Reid, who started the job about six months ago, has offered this diagnosis of what went wrong. He now says Sarasota County government will reevaluate whether any services could be better accomplished in-house.

In a related move, Reid announced last week that he would tap Ted Coyman to lead the county's purchasing department. Coyman, a former Defense Department contractor, was hired by the county last fall as a contract manager. He has laid out a plan to fix lingering issues.

The failures in the county's purchasing practices ultimately led to the forced resignation of former County Administrator Jim Ley, and the firings or resignations of more than a dozen other county officials.

As the purchasing problems arose, Ley suggested that they were a product of giving more responsibility to lower-level staff, a few of whom let him down.

Reid had a different assessment. He said that as the recession hit, the county laid off staffers with experience managing contracts. At the same time, the county started using more contracts.

The staffers that were left got little to no training in contract management. …

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