Almanac

News - July 23, 2014

Atherton council hikes staff purchasing limits

by Tiffany Lam

Atherton's town staff has been given more flexibility in making big purchases, but the change didn't come without some opposition.

In a 3-1 vote at its July 16 meeting, the Atherton City Council increased the limits on the amount of money town staff can spend without a formal bidding process.

As recommended by City Manager George Rodericks, the council increased the limit to $25,000 for professional services and $30,000 for everything else, including supplies and equipment. The previous limit for both was $15,000. Purchases will continue to be restricted to items in the town's approved budget.

Undergoing a formal bidding process takes additional staff time and resources and may not result in a lower cost, Mr. Rodericks said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, participating in the meeting via a conference call, noted that the lower limits "were set in place at a time when we had city managers and staff that were not as experienced or responsible as they are now."

Councilman Bill Widmer opposed the change. "It's not a question of saving staff time, but of transparency and doing the right thing for the taxpayer," he said. "Every day you read about spending limits where people didn't exercise responsibilities and there was embezzlement. Towns lose hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Mayor Cary Wiest responded that the town has checks and balances to prevent something like that from happening. "Increasing limits would give us more flexibility," he said.

Vice Mayor Rick DeGolia also voted in favor of the change.

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