State Police won’t investigate lack of new bid at Lincoln High School

State Police won’t investigate lack of new bid at Lincoln High School

LINCOLN – Rhode Island State Police have declined to investigate a complaint from a Lincoln resident alleging that state bidding laws were violated by the town of Lincoln or Symmes Maini & McKee Associates, the architecture firm responsible for the Lincoln High School design.

State Police contacted Manville resident Krista Iacobucci via phone this week to inform her that they will not be investigating the case, as it is not a criminal matter. The attorney general’s office is investigating an Access to Public Records Act complaint filed by Iacobucci in May, but said their department does not have jurisdiction over illegal contract procurements, only APRA violations.

Iacobucci is suggesting that SMMA and the town essentially turned what was a $40,000 job in Lincoln into a $4.3 million job without the benefit of competitive bidding.

In a letter addressed to Capt. Gerald McKinney, assistant detective commander for the State Police, Iacobucci had alleged that SMMA’s contract for “the assessment and recommendations to Lincoln High School” was illegally extended without going to public bid. Rhode Island law prohibits construction procurements over $10,000 without a public bid.

While SMMA legally won the bid for RIDE Stage I services after going out to public bid in June 2015, Iacobucci alleges the $40,000 contract for Stage I design was, in July 2017, “extended to encompass RIDE Stage III services, full construction documentations and administration for a fee of $4,275,000 without public bid.”

“Since the original request for proposal does not include full architectural and engineering design services, it does not seem that it is in fact a ‘contract modification’ or ‘contract amendment,’ “ Iacobucci writes, noting that a “contract extension” usually refers to an additional allotment of time given to a project, not an expansion of the contract’s original scope.

“It would therefore be considered a new contract, requiring public bid, which was circumvented by the town of Lincoln, and resulted in SMMA knowingly entering into an illegitimate contract,” she continued. “Without the presence of a competitive sealed bid, the town of Lincoln has no basis to determine a fair price for the work associated with RIDE Stage III and was most likely overcharged by a substantial amount to be unknowingly borne by the taxpayers of the town of Lincoln and the state of Rhode Island.”

LHS Renovation Committee co-chair and Town Council member Arthur Russo said the committee was, “advised by the solicitor that Rhode Island law allows us to continue the services of a consultant. When it came time to go from Stage I to Stage II, the committee came to the consensus that if we went out to bid to find another architect for Stage II we would be taking a step back. All in all if we were satisfied with SMMA’s performance we could, by law, continue their services into Stage II.”

Russo added, “From a committee perspective we’re just trying to do the best we can for the town to move this project forward; there’s certainly nothing nefarious going on with any members of the committee and SMMA.”

Iacobucci first brought her concerns about the lack of bidding before the Lincoln High School Renovation Committee several months ago, filing a public records request including all competitive bid proposals for the LHS project. When she did not receive any competitive bid documents, she asked whether there was competitive bidding.

Peter Skwirz responded on behalf of Anthony DeSisto Law Associates.

“On Nov. 21, 2017 Lincoln approved a contract extension with SMMA. This extension was approved as a continuation of the existing master educational and facilities plan agreement, dated June 21, 2015. Under chapter 55 of title 45, supplemental agreements and contract extensions are included with the originally bid contract and do not require rebidding.”

“This law does not allow a $40,000 contract for RIDE Stage I (building assessment) work to be modified to include $4,275,000 RIDE Stage III (full construction documents and construction administration),” Iacobucci wrote in her reply in late May. “That is a 10,000 percent increase in construct value and an addition of massive amounts of scope, hence making this project in clear contradiction with RIGL 45-55.”

“Being an active member of the engineering community, many local architects have concurred that the fee they gave the town is above and beyond what it would have been if it was a competitive bid,” she told The Breeze. “As a taxpayer for Lincoln and state of Rhode Island, I don’t agree with this at all … we are overpaying.”

She continued, “My goal is not to stop the project but to set a precedent for the state that you have to follow the law. We can’t hand these projects out. They have to follow the proper process.”