July 20, 2011 3:44 PM
VICTORVILLE • The city’s contract for risk management services is stirring controversy, with both the San Bernardino County Grand Jury and Councilwoman Angela Valles raising concerns over what Victorville is getting for its money.
The City Council approved renewing a $114,972 contract for risk management and safety consultant services with Chuck Buquet’s Charles Joseph & Associates on a 4-1 vote Tuesday night.
Buquet has handled risk management for Victorville for the last 16 years, City Manager Doug Robertson said. Over that time, Robertson said he believes Buquet has saved the city a good deal of money by negotiating lower insurance costs and getting $2.2 million in premiums returned to Victorville since 1996.
However, Victorville is the only local city that contracts out for risk management services, with Apple Valley, Hesperia, Adelanto and larger area cities such as Ontario all managing the duty with in-house staff, city officials confirmed Wednesday.
As Victorville prepares to lay off two workers in its human resources department and considers closing the pool at Pebble Beach Park to balance its budget, Valles said she can’t understand why her colleagues won’t consider analyzing whether risk management could be done in house or at least shopped out for a cheaper price.
“There is money but they just keep giving it to the good ol’ boys,” Valles said.
Two contracts for Buquet were included in Tuesday’s agenda, both developed by former City manager Jon Roberts.
The first was approved in October 2007, giving Buquet $55 per hour for up to 160 hours per month — or up to $105,600 annually — to oversee risk management services, including processing liability claims and litigation management.
That contract was amended a week later to pay up to $118,800 each year, also tasking Buquet with overseeing contract administration, safety program management and security management consulting services.
Valles also questioned the lack of detail Buquet had provided on past invoices for his hourly work, with no information about what cases he’d worked on each time.
The grand jury, which has been investigating the city for three years, previously raised the same concern, Robertson said. Though he said he always knew what Buquet was working on, Robertson said they’ve since started including descriptions on each invoice for the record.
To his knowledge, Robertson said the city hasn’t put out a request for risk management proposals during the last 16 years.
“There are people that are hungry for work, and they deserve a fair opportunity to bid on these contracts,” Valles said.
Valles has repeatedly made the same request regarding City Attorney Andre de Bortnowksy’s contract, though the rest of the council has refused to put attorney services out to bid either.
Brooke Edwards may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.
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