Government should aim for fully open bidding processes. And the public should have a reasonable idea what it’s bidding on.
The city of Las Vegas fell short of these standards with a grazing lease on its reservoir property in the Gallinas area last year.
The city placed an ad for this grazing lease three times in the newspaper, but it never indicated the location of the land in question. This is pertinent information that would help prospective bidders determine whether they are interested. And when the Optic sought all the information associated with this grazing lease, it still couldn’t determine where it was or how many acres it included. It took some more calls to get such information.
Also, it turned out that the city violated state law and its own rules on the timing of its public notices for a call for bids on the grazing lease.
As a result, only one person bid on the grazing lease — Melvin Ortega, the city’s natural gas supervisor, He arguably had a head start in the process, especially since the land is connected to the city’s utilities department, of which natural gas is a part.
Frank Davis, who owns land next to the grazing lease, hired an attorney to argue that the bidding process wasn’t fair, pointing out how the city violated its own rules. The attorney also noted that Ortega’s winning of the lease appeared to be an insider’s deal.
City officials who were involved may have had the purest of motives. But there was an appearance of a conflict of interest, especially with the violations of procedure.
So the city rightly decided this month to end its lease with Melvin Ortega. That was a response to Davis’ objections. If the city calls for bids again, it should make sure that it closely follows its rules.