Dracut selectman airs frustrations with manager over procurement procedures

Dracut Town Manager Jim Duggan, left, listens to a discussion about procurement procedures at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Beside him is Town Counsel James A. Hall.
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DRACUT — A little over a year ago, Selectman Joseph DiRocco met with Town Manager Jim Duggan to discuss some calls DiRocco said he received from local contractors. They wanted to know why they weren’t being offered contracts in town.

According to DiRocco, Duggan said he would look into it. The calls from contractors continued. In some cases, DiRocco said, they told him they were not notified of upcoming projects to begin with. That’s when he began looking into the matter himself and said it appeared that Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 30B (on procurement procedures) was not adhered to.

In the end, things did not go as DiRocco thought they would. This prompted him to air his frustrations publicly at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Before him, a stack of papers DiRocco had not yet shared with the other selectmen detailed a list of projects that went to one company outside of Dracut. He didn’t disclose which company it was at first, but later shared it was Lowell-based RSG Contracting Corporation.

The projects in question, DiRocco said, included the new Dracut fire station and the Beaver Brook trail project, which recently made headlines after resident Alison Genest filed a complaint detailing alleged violations and impact on protected wetlands. That trail job was done by RSG Contracting Corporation.

Town department heads who need goods or services can go out and solicit proposals under the state’s procurement law. According to Duggan, once a price is received and a purchase order is set up, it goes back to him for him to sign.

DiRocco said he found a number of cases where there weren’t three bids attached to a project of over $10,000. Procurement officials will need to seek at least three written quotations for supplies and services valued between $10,000 and $50,000, according to the Massachusetts government website. In one case, DiRocco said, the value was over $50,000 and it didn’t go through the required sealing bid process.

Selectman Joseph DiRocco Jr., center, speaks Tuesday at the Board of Selectmen meeting on his issues. Pictured at the far left is Selectman Alison Hughes and at the far right is Selectmen Chair Jesse Forcier.

“I know that the manager right now is taking steps to correct it,” DiRocco said. “The part that bothered me the most was I went to him and it didn’t… now it’s getting resolved.”

Duggan has said town administration immediately took corrective action with delegating a procurement compliance officer to ensure that anything that requires going out for bids solicitation or price proposal solicitation has go to go through her first.

Duggan on Tuesday told selectmen that he will take responsibility. Key town staff will go for their procurement certification this fall, he added.

“Good, bad or indifferent, the buck stops with me,” Duggan said.

DiRocco said he wanted to know what the board wants to do about this.

The meeting took a tense turn when Selectman Tony Archinski said he had absolutely no idea what DiRocco was talking about. He told DiRocco it would have been nice if he had shared the paperwork with the other officials.

In response, DiRocco said he knows Archinski is a reasonable person who could understand what he’s saying.

“I don’t,” Archinski said.

“I think it’s a pretty reasonable explanation of what’s been going on,” Selectmen Chair Jesse Forcier said. “I mean I don’t know if you need to –“

“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Archinski interjected.

The Sun on Tuesday night left a message for RSG Contracting Corp. After the meeting, Duggan declined to comment on DiRocco’s statements.

DiRocco, after the meeting, said he was aggravated because he said Duggan didn’t address the matter a year ago.

“That’s the part that ticks me off more than anything,” DiRocco said. “He knows he’s in a little bit of trouble. What the board does, I don’t know.”

The Board of Selectmen plan to continue a discussion on the matter at a later time.