This month, I must refute the tabloid stories the Gazette ran on Jan. 19 and 20.The page one, column one headline on the 19 read, “Bruce accused of aiding backer.” The sub-headline read, “Favoritism alleged in copier contract.” I say, “Hogwash.”The story was 39 column inches. Not until the 26th inch on the follow-up page did readers learn there was NO pending charge. Not until the 30th inch was my denial of wrongdoing printed.Here are the facts:On Oct. 31, the contracts department proposed awarding Florida-based Danka a right to lease copiers to county departments. I have pointed out for a year that we should include local firms in our bidding process for goods or services, not lazily “piggyback” (accept without local bidding) on out-of-county government contracts. The county should seek more competition and lower bids. Bircham’s Office Products has also criticized county bidding practices.When I asked staff for documentation, I received a chart showing Bircham’s was generally the low bidder. Their base cost per copy was one-third Danka’s. So, as the taxpayer’s champion, I questioned the award to Danka. The chart lacked phone numbers for the out-of-state companies, which could not attend on 30 minutes notice anyway. I asked Bircham’s if they knew they were being shut out, despite their low bid. They chose to attend the meeting and object.Note, the only reason anyone knew I called Bircham’s was that I openly disclosed it to the board. I had nothing to hide. I can invite any citizen to any public meeting, and will do so particularly when he had criticized county policies and then been shut out from a contract his firm should receive as low bidder. I know what it’s like to be punished for criticizing government.At the board meeting, I shared with my colleagues the comparison chart, a PUBLIC DOCUMENT. Bids are mailed secretly, but, as Commissioner Williams agreed, the board can disclose such papers to justify its action. How much a company bids for a public contract is not a trade secret.I asked Mr. Bircham about the chart’s note that his bid did not cover “support, supplies, equipment.” He said that was false. Basing comparisons on wrong data also voids the outcome.The board postponed the matter. The contracts department then requested new bids. The chart was available to everyone rebidding.On Dec. 14, a Florida attorney for Danka filed an ignorant, malicious and false protest. It was WITHDRAWN two weeks before this story ran. He admitted his complaint was filed after legal time limits, yet he asserted I had favored a campaign backer in the bidding process and was “obviously biased.” (I had no part in collecting bids.) He never talked to me before mailing his impulsive, sore loser whining. He even lacked the decency to use his copier to send me a copy!Last Wednesday, the Gazette reporter called me. Apparently, someone at the county had leaked this bogus protest to him. The reporter did not state the protest had been withdrawn, though he later admitted he knew that. I had never heard of any filed protest that criticized me by name. I called the contracts department and asked for a copy. (Why would someone disclose it to the Gazette, but keep it from the named commissioner? Insider retaliation?)At the Thursday meeting, Mr. Bircham confirmed he had made NO contribution to my commissioner race. In fact, I took no donations from anyone, yet voluntarily disclosed my own spending on my race.Mr. Bircham’s description of our business relationship is on my Web site: www.DouglasBruce.com, within the January 2006 monthly report link.The county attorney had also read the protest and found no bias by me. Amazingly, he admitted the county went from one award in October to two in January, to include Danka “in exchange” for its dismissal of its frivolous, untimely complaint. Danka had proposed such an extortionate “solution” to the county in a Dec. 23 e-mail. Libel and belated, unfounded whining should not be rewarded, but it was.Bircham’s was again the overall low bidder-a monthly minimum of $469.20 versus Danka’s $580.13, but Bircham’s now has to share the award.I noted that staff should be required to disclose to the board any complaints that allege illegal or biased conduct, particularly when a commissioner is named. Sandbagging elected officials who criticize the county is poor public policy. The county administrator agreed to change the policy “next time.”On talk radio that evening, I was anonymously accused by “Rick” of committing an unnamed “felony.” Only if it is now illegal to promote economy in government will I plead guilty. Only if it is now illegal to blow the whistle on sleazy insider practices will I resign. In fact, my only “crime” is keeping my campaign promises. I shall continue to do so as long as God gives me breath.”Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8: 32Readers may get more information about this and other county issues at www.DouglasBruce.com by subscribing to my e-mailed monthly reports. They may also listen to the Oct. 31 and Jan. 19 board tapes on the county’s Web site: www.elpasoco.com.Douglas BruceCounty CommissionerEd Bircham’s response:To whom it may concern:
- Bircham’s has loaned obsolete, slow copiers to Douglas Bruce and his group, ACT, for 11 years. This loan began before Mr. Bruce ever ran for political office in Colorado.
- The first two copiers loaned were later returned to Bircham’s and discarded, with no value left on our books.
- The current copier was a part of a group of hundreds of obsolete copiers acquired by Bircham’s when they were replaced by a customer. Over half of those copiers acquired were immediately junked. The copier now on loan to Mr. Bruce’s group, ACT, was one of the group not junked, but has no dollar value.
- Bircham’s has not given toner, paper or other supplies to Mr. Bruce or ACT. Mr. Bruce has paid $989.14 over the years for retail billing from Bircham’s for supplies and service. This has been a satisfactory business result for Bircham’s, and no special pricing was given to Mr. Bruce or ACT.
- Our current paperwork for this relationship is in the name of ACT, a nonprofit, in care of Mr. Bruce.
- Bircham’s has never requested any special treatment from Mr. Bruce based on this business relationship. Bircham’s has loaned copiers to many other public figures and charities on a similar basis, including Katrina relief here in Colorado Springs.
- Bircham’s still owns the copier at Mr. Bruce’s office and it will be junked when service repairs become excessive. At that time, Bircham’s will loan ACT another used copier if Mr. Bruce wants one.
- Based on the number of copies made before this loan, each copier was near the end of its useful life at the time of delivery to Mr. Bruce.
- Bircham’s made absolutely no campaign contributions to Douglas Bruce’s race for commissioner, either on a corporate or individual basis.