The Board of Selectmen Tuesday morning approved $65,737 for the purchase of three used cars for the police department and fire marshal. The cars were requested in the 2013-14 municipal budget, but were eliminated during the budget-setting process.
Instead, the money will be allocated from the 2013 capital projects fund, which came in under budget.
Bill Oestmann, superintendent of buildings and fleet for the town, said he chose to buy Chevrolets over Fords.
"I went to both Ford and Chevy with our criteria," he said at the meeting. "Right now, Chevrolet came in with best on all three vehicles."
Cost was evidently not one of the criteria, as Selectman Beth Jones noted that the price from Chevy was about $8,000 higher than the price from Ford.
Oestmann responded that while the price was higher, the cars were of a more recent make, the mileage was lower, and the warranties were better from Chevrolet, making them a superior purchase for the town.
Responding to a question from Selectman Nick Williams on whether any companies other than Ford and Chevrolet had been considered, Oestmann said the town buys 95 percent of its cars from one or the other, as parts to foreign cars cost more.
First Selectman Robert Mallozzi added that the mechanics the town uses are only in those two brands, so there would also be a learning curve if the town went out and bought Toyotas.
Missing from the discussion, however, were the dealerships from which the town was planning to buy. Neither the agenda, nor Oestmann, nor any of the three selectmen noted that the cars would be bought from Karl Chevrolet, owned by New Canaan's Karl family, of which Steve Karl, the director of sales, is a member of the New Canaan Town Council.
A review of similar approvals for spending and contracts where the cost is listed in the agenda, the company from which the purchase will be made has appeared in all 26 such agenda items in 2013.
Karl recused himself from voting for the expenditure at the May 15 Town Council meeting, as he said it would be a conflict of interest.
"Any time we bid something, and we've done a lot with the town over the years, I've stepped off," Karl said Tuesday. "That's probably the number one conflict of interest there is. We have to file that (conflict of interest) form with the town clerk each and every time we win a bid. I've already filed that."
According to the best recollection of Town Administrator Tom Stadler, there is no ordinance that requires a request for proposal for such a purchase, or for any purchase. He also noted that such a request would be cumbersome, as the specifics for what kind of car and how many miles and what models were intricate. According to a search of the Town Charter, there is also no such mandate for a formal RFP.
Mallozzi, Jones and Oestmann did not return calls for comment.
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