A financial consulting agency affiliated with the company that audits the books for Winnebago got the inside track for a $23,000 contract.
“The auditors are recommending we do this,” Deputy City Clerk Jessi Sturtz told City Council members at their monthly meeting held Feb. 11.
Sturtz was referring to the auditing firm of Abdo, Eick & Meyers of Mankato, which lists AEM Financial Solutions on its website.
At the end of her 30-minute presentation outlining a 5-year long-term plan, debt and utility rate studies, Jean McGann acknowledged she is a consultant to Abdo, Eick & Meyers.
McGann quoted the council a price of $26,500, however, offered a $3,500 discount if her company was selected.
“It is a living and breathing document that provides a playbook for you,” she says. “It puts into perspective as to what needs to be done and how you are going to pay for it.”
Under state law, the council was not required to follow the competitive bidding process for a contract under $25,000 because there is an exemption for professional services.
However, the state Legislature in 2014 adopted a streamlined approach for cities to follow if technical and professional services to be received are estimated to cost between $5,000 and $25,000.
City officials could have used a process called a “Quick Call” to obtain proposals from a minimum of three vendors.
Mayor Jeremiah Schutt, council members Jean Anderson, Calvin Howard and Paul Eisenmenger all seemed to be in agreement that hiring AEM is a good idea.
Schutt says the results of McGann’s work would be, “a great tool to understand what our needs are.”
Howard says the document, “will help future councils to see what is being done and will provide a third perspective.”
While Eisenmenger thinks hiring AEM would be money well spent, he says no decision should be made until absent Councilman Rick Johnson has a chance to express his opinion.
Before approving the contract with McGann, Anderson expressed why the council shouldn’t wait.
“We need to start, the sooner the better. So we can get the ball rolling,” she says.