Probe clears Pittsburgh fire chief of favoritism in fire truck bids
March 27, 2014 11:11 PM
Pittsburgh fire Chief Darryl Jones
By Liz Navratil / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh's Office of Municipal Investigations cleared the city's fire chief after it closed its probe into allegations that a bid for fire trucks was tailored to favor a company for which the chief previously worked.
"After reviewing the information presented to OMI, it is the finding of this office that you shall be exonerated of the allegations of Conduct Unbecoming a Member or Employee," OMI manager Deborah Walker wrote in a letter received this week by fire Chief Darryl Jones.
The city began its probe last year after local reporters asked about complaints from other potential bidders who said they felt the bid specifications were tailored toward Kennedy-based Keystone Fire Apparatus.
Chief Jones worked from July 2000 to December 2004 as a contracted salesman for Keystone Fire Apparatus, during which time he estimated that he made only one or two sales. He argued that his previous involvement with the company was not an issue because he had little contact with the owner since he left and because proposals were evaluated by a committee of fire bureau employees.
Pittsburgh public safety director Michael Huss said at the time that the chief erred by not disclosing his previous employment and that the concerns presented by four companies that did not win the contract warranted an OMI investigation.
"I'm glad it's over," Chief Jones said Thursday. "There was never any anxiety or feeling of suspense. I knew from the beginning that I was acting appropriately."
Chief Jones said he provided OMI with documents relevant to the bid when it began its probe late last spring, when the office was headed by Kathy Kraus. He said he met a few weeks ago with Ms. Walker, who recently took Ms. Kraus' position following the change in mayoral administration, and learned Tuesday that he had been "exonerated."
Ms. Walker confirmed the outcome of the investigation Thursday.
At the center of the controversy was a bid to supply two fire trucks -- one for Pittsburgh and one for Wilkinsburg.
Bid tabulation documents showed that the lowest bid in that process was submitted in 2012 by Missouri-based Precision Fire Apparatus, which submitted a bid of $428,986 per truck, and the second-lowest was submitted by Keystone Fire Apparatus at $436,577 per truck.
A member of the fire apparatus committee created a list of 64 reasons why the bid by Precision Fire Apparatus did not meet their specifications and the contract went to Keystone Fire Apparatus.
A co-owner of Precision Fire Apparatus said last year that many of the things on that list were typos. He could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.
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