Our Opinion: Stockbridge's failure to follow procedure
Whether or not the Stockbridge Fire Department was "scammed" into questionable purchases or made them with full knowledge of the cost can be debated and should be explored, but it seems more than likely that the department did not follow proper procedure in making those purchases. That the fire chief, Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo, is also a selectman threatens to complicate an investigation that taxpayers should demand.
Town Counsel J. Robert Miyares accuses two out-of-state vendors of using high-pressure sales tactics to sell products such as fire foam, truck, hose and gear cleaners, and wipes for face masks to the fire department. (Clarence Fanto article, Eagle, Dec. 1.) The town claims that $45,000 of $105,000 in purchases from the vendors were excessive, and that $20,000 that has not yet been paid will not be. The town will likely seek refunds or returns on the remainder. The vendors reply that the department made the purchases willingly and there was no scam.
Mr. Miyares also accuses Chief Cardillo of not following procedures designed to prevent such losses, specifically the Massachusetts law requiring that purchase orders of more than $10,000 be accompanied by solicitation of three written quotes for documentation. The town counsel adds that over the years the town has been "less than rigorous" about making sure that purchases go through the town administrator acting in the role of chief procurement officer.
In small towns, officials often wear more than one hat, which can lead to potential conflicts. This is one of those examples, and we urge Mr. Cardillo, who has recused himself from past Select Board discussions involving the Fire Department, to do so as well here while the remaining board members investigate the purchases and the manner in which they were made. The vendors might short-circuit an investigation into a possible scam by accepting the return of the merchandise purchased and not charging the town for the $45,000 in question.
In the future, Stockbridge officials must follow the proper procedure for purchases to avoid similar snafus. Other Berkshire towns should see this as a cautionary tale about the need to assure that their procurement procedures are followed to the letter.
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