City Police Uniform Bid Back to Square One

The story of how Rye managed to award a police department uniform bid, on a third try, to the owner of New England Sportswear (NES) of White Plains, John Holmes, took a few more interesting turns at the City Council meeting April 17.

Published April 21, 2013 5:00 AM
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The story of how Rye managed to award a police department uniform bid, on a third try, to the owner of New England Sportswear (NES) of White Plains, John Holmes, took a few more interesting turns at the City Council meeting April 17.

 

By Tom McDermott

 

The story of how Rye managed to award a police department uniform bid, on a third try, to the owner of New England Sportswear (NES) of White Plains, John Holmes, took a few more interesting turns at the City Council meeting April 17.

 

At the Council’s March 20 meeting, Councilman Joe Sack expressed deep concern about a possible appearance of a conflict of interest, since Holmes was a member of Rye’s auxiliary police force. Despite Corporation Counsel Kristen Wilson’s assurances that, since Holmes was unpaid there was no conflict, Sack cast the lone no vote as the Council made its award to NES, the low bidder.

 

At the same meeting, some members of the Council had also asked if Mr. Holmes might have some ownership position at NES. Neither City Manager Scott Pickup nor Wilson knew.

 

As it turned out, Mr. Holmes was the owner of NES. And, a few days after the award, on March 25, Police Commissioner William Connors was notified by Steven Blauer, Vice President of Blauer Manufacturing, that his company never provided a letter stating it would warranty its garments for NES.

 

Soon after the notification, Pickup and Wilson looked more closely at NES’s warranty letter side-by-side with that of the losing bidder’s, New England Uniform’s (NEU). The letters now looked very different.

 

On March 26, Commissioner Connors met with his Detective Division to commence an investigation. On the same day, the City received another letter, this one from NEU, stating that they objected to the bid award to NES.

 

On March 27, Connors conferred with the Westchester County District Attorney’s office and later with the DA’s Public Integrity Bureau.

 

The result of these discussions was that Mr. Holmes was arrested on April 9, charged with two Class “E” Felonies related to his submission of the winning bid.

 

The defendant was charged with submitting a fraudulent letter of warranty for products sold by Blauer Manufacturing Inc. The DA said the defendant knew the warranty was not provided by Blauer and also knew that NES was not an approved supplier of Blauer products.

 

Reacting to the arrest of Mr. Holmes at the time, Mr. Sack told the paper that, ”Under the circumstances, it would have been advisable for city staff to verify information related to the bids.”

 

After Holmes’ arrest, Wilson said that she would recommend that the City rescind its award to NES, and make a new award to NEU.

 

But the City Council, especially Mr. Sack, after listening to Connors give a long explanation of the most recent bid process and several others from the past, was in no frame of mind to make any awards.

 

Led by Sack, and Councilwomen Brett and Killian, and joined by Mayor Doug French, the Council sent the Commissioner, City Manager, and Corporation Counsel back to square one, to rebid the contract all over again.

 

Notably, the Council also heard for the first time at this meeting that Mr. Holmes, in addition to his role at NES, is or was employed at Rye Country Day School in maintenance or perhaps other areas, and that the school occasionally hires off-duty Rye police officers for security.

 

Residents Jimmy Amico and Leon Sculti, no friends of Pickup’s and no strangers to the Council podium, didn’t take long to question the bidding process. As Amico put it, “This whole process smells.”

 

There were a lot of unanswered questions lingering after the Council’s discussion of the affair, one of which might fairly be: why doesn’t the City have a Procurement or Sourcing officer and clear procurement policies for all of its departments?

 

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