The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 12, 2012

School district pizza bid process under scrutiny

By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — The Clinton School Board pizza bid protocol sparked a lengthy discussion during the board’s meeting Monday night.  

Board member Jack Wenzel brought the item up because he felt, based on the discussion last month, there were some discrepancies and miscommunication among bidders.

Original discussions surfaced because Board President Jim McGraw, who also owns the Happy Joe’s franchise in Clinton and was the lowest bidder on the pizza contract, expressed dissatisfaction with the process.

Since 2010, the school district has sought bids to provide pizza to students. Once the bids are received, the school district asks those who did not have the lowest bid if they could meet the lowest bid.

The school year is then divided into equal sections for each bidder willing to participate at that price.

McGraw has bid on the contract before, but has not been the lowest bidder until this year. He declined to participate in this system in previous years.

Per Iowa Code, a board member cannot provide the district with more than $1,500 in merchandise to the school district without going through a bid process.

“I think it implies two things. I think it implies if we do anything different than that and do not bid it, that we would be in violation of state law.  The second thing it implies is that if I’m the successful bidder then I should be awarded the bid,” McGraw said of Iowa code. “I should not be penalized in the bid process because I’m a board member...Whatever the protocol is, I think it’s incorrect.  By not allowing the low bidder, it creates an injustice to my business.  All I’m asking for is fairness and that’s it,” McGraw said.

McGraw said he would not have bid if he had known the protocol beforehand. The school district previously asked vendors to participates in “pizza wars” during one week of the school year.  The vendor who sold the most pizza won the contract for the year.  

“There was some unhappiness with the vendors on how it was being done.  When we changed the process, we thought at the time we were meeting some of the criticisms that they had of the old process,” District Business Manager Jan Culbertson said. “We would be glad to adjust the process.”

Contracts for the pizza service for the 2012-2013 school year have already been awarded. The board ultimately decided not to change the protocol but to research the issue.