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Davis, California

Friday, July 19, 2024

Bill aimed to improve university transparency

The Senate Governmental Organization Committee approvedSenateBill1596,authored byStateSenator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) on Apr.15.The bill requires theUniversity ofCalifornia to uphold responsible contracts and have competitive bidding processes for contracts every three years.TheUniversity ofCalifornia Responsible Contracting Act will also necessitate the university to keep the contracts in adatabase accessibleby thepublic.

“The bill spurs partly from the UC Davis problem with the Sodexho contract,which has been with Davis for over30years without allowing other contractors to put out a bid,and a case down in[UC] Santa Barbara,where a contract was given to an irresponsible business with a history of bad labor contracts and of not paying taxes,and they left town without pay to all the workers, saidAdam Keigwin,communications director for Lee.

SB1596is sponsored by theAmericanFederationState,County and Municipal Employees Local3299,which represents20,000UC workers across the UCcampuses.Local3299has been working with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations in hopes offixing problems with the Sodexho contracting problem.

“The Local3299is the sponsor of the bill after working with the UC campus to try to ameliorate their problems with the Sodexho situation for four decades,with what the community found years after trying to gain a better understanding with the contract reports of what the contracts required,said Kevin Christensen,lead researcher of AFL-CIO.

“The university is stonewalling and not providing information,not providing public bidding in over a decade,which doesn’t follow the best practices, he said.

According the Keigwin,the bill would allow other businesses to have the opportunity to bid forworkat the university.If it is clear another company is better and cheaper,and the university does not take the bid,an inherent problem would be exposed.

Contrary tothe belief that the UC Davis food service has not put out bids in the last several decades,Stan Nosek,vice chancellor of administration,said the UC Davis food service has put out bidding for contractors at least four times during his31years at UC Davis.

“From a business manager perspective,to have a limit like that[SB1596] would stretch the length of a contract.The more years you have with a contractor the better return you have and abetter deal you have with them,Noseksaid.

Sodexhohas a contract with UC Davis food service until2010and has had a long relationship with UC Davis.One concern is that the bill will limit businesses from having enough time to successfully establish themselves with the public.

“This bill will affect the university substantially.Part of the negotiating is to get the best value for the university,and it has to do with service,reputation,and partnering with the right institution,said Brett Burns,director of Memorial Union auxiliary services.

“That consistency is what makes our food service so successful.It’ll get tough to get a level of consistency if we’re possibly turning over every three years.

The billalso works to prevent problems like the one UC Santa Barbara recently encountered.A sub-contractor UC Santa Barbara hired topaint some of the new buildings on campus left without fully paying all its employees.

PaulDesruisseaux,UC Santa Barbara associate vice chancellor for public affairs said,“We had paid the contractor,and although we had a surety bond with the contractor,they didn’t make payments on scheduleand pay the correct amountsand checks didn’t clear.

SB1596would require all contractors to fill out a questionnaire regarding their background and their compliance with state and federal laws.Lies or discrepanciesin the questionnaire could result in a fine to the contractorsofup to$10,000.

“We looked at the city ofL.A.s Contractor Responsibility Ordinance,passed in2000,and tried to model SB1596,Christensensaid.

“Their program has been very successful,getting the best bang for their buck,so to speak.It weeds out irresponsible practices and identifies questionable contracts, he said.

The bill is being reviewed by the Office of Governmental Affairs inSacramento.“We are currently viewing the bill for our policies, said Nicole Savickas,communication coordinatorof theUCOfficeof thePresident.We are always working to improve our contracts,and we welcome anything to help it.

If the bill is approved by the governor and passed,it will go into effect next January.This is part of a series of bills to bring greater sunshine and transparency to our government and public institutions,Keigwinsaid.


WENDY WANG can be reached at campus@californiaaggie.com.XXX


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