What appeared to be a minor administrative reorganization drew a sharp complaint from a former mayor at City Council Tuesday’s meeting.
On council’s agenda was an ordinance moving city government’s Bureau of Procurement from the Department of Administrative Services to the Office of the Solicitor.
A few years ago, the city brought its contracted solicitor, Barry Handwerger, in-house, creating the solicitor’s office. Since procurement involves contracts, which are a legal matter, placing the bureau under his office’s jurisdiction makes sense and will streamline administration, Handwerger told City Council at its January committee meeting.
Former Mayor Art Morris, however, contended on Tuesday that state law requires the director of administration to oversee purchasing, citing Section 416 of the Optional Third Class City Charter Law. He urged council to postpone its vote.
Section 416 says that when a city has a department of administration, its director shall be designated the “business administrator” and it shall “administer a centralized purchasing system.”
In response to Council President Amanda Bakay’s questions, Mayor Danene Sorace said that although she was unaware if other cities had taken similar actions, the ordinance had undergone an appropriate legal review.
Without further discussion, City Council passed the measure by a unanimous 6-0 vote.
In a follow-up email to One United Lancaster, Chief of Staff Jess King said the city believes the change is in compliance with applicable law, because while the Bureau of Procurement is moving, the purchasing system is not.
“The city always has had, and will continue to have, a centralized purchasing system under the Director of Administrative Services per Optional Third Class City Charter Law,” she said. “The procurement process under the management of the solicitor enables the city to achieve more competitive bids and cost savings to city taxpayers, and does so in a manner that works with the centralized purchasing system.”