[HISTORY: Adopted by the County Commissioners of Caroline County 2-11-2014 by Bill No. 2014-2. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Audits — See Ch. 7.
Commissioners — See Ch. 18.
Budget — See Ch. 50.
Comptroller and Collector of Taxes — See Ch. 62.
Transportation bonds — See Ch. App. I.
Editor's Note: This bill also repealed former Ch. 51, Purchasing, adopted 11-16-1982, as amended.
The purpose of this chapter is to ensure that the taxpayers of Caroline County receive full return on the investment of tax dollars; that Caroline County government operates openly, efficiently, and effectively in public purchasing; that vendors and potential vendors are treated fairly; and that local businesses are given the opportunity to provide goods and services where both cost effective and in the County's interest.
The goal of the Purchasing Ordinance is to determine not simply the best price for a good or service, but the best value. Another goal is make the process of doing business with the County open, transparent, and as simple as practicable. While some purchasing may be done through a central purchasing agent or office, County department heads also have authority to make purchases in conformance with this chapter and the adopted budget. To the extent possible, purchasing processes will fully utilize the County's website and other digital media.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall be defined as follows:
- A written change to an invitation for bids.
- ALTERNATE BID
- A dollar amount to be added to or subtracted from the base bid price. The Director of Purchasing may request alternate bid prices in order to compare various options that may be in the County's best interest.
- A determination, after review, that a certain vendor will be given the contract.
- A price submitted by a vendor for a product, service, or construction.
- Any person who submits a quote, proposal or bid.
- CAROLINE COUNTY GOVERNMENT
- The County Commissioners of Caroline County, Maryland, and all departments under their authority and, for the purposes of purchasing, the Caroline County Health Department.
- CONDITIONAL BID
- A bid submitted by a bidder on which the bidder has made certain conditions for acceptance that are contrary to the conditions of the IFB or that were not requested in the IFB.
- A legal agreement between a vendor and the County.
- Caroline County, Maryland, a body corporate and politic.
- COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR
- The chief administrative officer for Caroline County, appointed by the County Commissioners and described in Chapter 18, § 18-7, of the Caroline County Code and as may be amended from time to time.
- COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
- The County Commissioners of Caroline County, Maryland.
- An action taken by the County to bar a vendor from doing business with the County for a period of time.
- DEBARMENT PANEL
- A hearing body to which debarment decisions of the Director of Purchasing can be appealed by the debarred vendor.
- Any functional division of the Caroline County government and the Caroline County Health Department.
- DEPARTMENT HEAD
- The County employee who is in charge of a department.
- DIRECTOR OF PURCHASING
- The County Administrator or any County employee so designated by the County Administrator.
- A sudden and unexpected occurrence or condition which the County Commissioners reasonably could not foresee, posing an actual and immediate threat to the continuance of essential normal operation of a County agency or the need to cope with a public exigent condition.
- FORMAL BID
- A sealed bid for goods, services, or construction.
- Invitation for bids.
- INCIDENTAL PURCHASE
- The purchase of goods or services where the total value is less than $1,000.
- IN-COUNTY BIDDER
- A bidder whose principal place of business is located in Caroline County, Maryland. Determination of an in-County bidder shall be made in the sole and exclusive discretion of the Director of Purchasing.
- INVITATION FOR BIDS
- A document or collection of documents or materials constituting a solicitation for proposals or bids.
- LOWEST RESPONSIVE AND RESPONSIBLE BIDDER
- The bidder who has submitted the lowest price, has met all specifications, qualifications, and requirements of an invitation for bids, and is capable of carrying out the terms of the contract as determined by the Director of Purchasing or his or her designee.
- MAJOR PURCHASE
- The purchase of goods, services or construction where the total value is equal to or greater than $40,000.
- MINOR IRREGULARITY
- One which is merely a matter of form and not of substance or pertains to some immaterial or inconsequential defect or variation of a bid or proposal from the exact requirement of the solicitation, the correction or waiver of which would not be prejudicial to the other bidders as determined by the Director of Purchasing.
- MINOR PURCHASE
- The purchase of goods, services or construction where the total value is less than $40,000 but equal to or greater than $1,000.
- OPEN PURCHASE ORDER
- An open purchase order effective for a stated period of time and not to exceed stated dollar limits to which miscellaneous individual similar purchases can be charged.
- OUT-OF-COUNTY BIDDER
- A bidder whose principal place of business is not located in Caroline County, Maryland. Determination of an out-of-County bidder shall be made in the sole and exclusive discretion of the Director of Purchasing.
- An individual, corporation, partnership of any kind, limited liability company, trust, unincorporated association, unincorporated business, or any other form of business or entity of any kind, whether or not recognized under the laws of the State of Maryland.
- PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
- Services provided by physicians, auditors, attorneys, architects, engineers, graphic designers, consultants or other individuals or organizations possessing a high degree of technical skill.
- The written submission of a firm price other than by sealed bid.
- PURCHASING AGENT
- Any individual designated a Purchasing Agent pursuant to this chapter.
- PURCHASING CARD
- A credit card, debit card, or other similar authority enabling a Purchasing Agent, department head, or other authorized individual to purchase materials, supplies, or services on and for the County's account as provided for in this chapter.
- The oral submission of a price.
- REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFP)
- A solicitation for proposals.
- REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATIONS (RFQ)
- A solicitation for qualifications.
- SEALED BID
- The secret submission of a price that will be opened and read aloud in a public meeting.
- SOLE SOURCE PURCHASE
- The purchase of goods, services, or construction from a single vendor without competitive bid or quotes.
- The act of seeking bids, proposals, or qualifications from potential vendors.
- TIE BID
- Responsive bids from bidders that are identical in price, terms and conditions and which meet all the requirements and evaluation criteria set forth in the invitation for bids.
- A supplier of goods, services or construction.
- VENDOR LIST
- A list of qualified vendors maintained by the County.
Authority. The County Commissioners of Caroline County enact this chapter pursuant to the laws of the State of Maryland, including, but not limited to, §§ 1-101, 10-102, 10-312, 12-401, 12-403 of the Local Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland and §§ 4-316 and 12-109 of the State Finance and Procurement Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland and any pertinent public local law, as may be amended from time to time.
Applicability of provisions. All departments of the Caroline County government that receive appropriations from Caroline County funds, and the Caroline County Health Department, when it elects to purchase through Caroline County, and the employees of all of them, shall comply with and be subject to the provisions of this chapter and any subsequent rules and regulations adopted by resolution by the County Commissioners, or with other procedures approved by the County Commissioners, for the purchase or contract of goods, services or construction.
Compliance with state and federal regulations required. Wherever applicable, all requirements set forth in state and federal grant, loan, and assistance programs and contracts shall be satisfied. The requirement that provides the greater restriction or highest standards shall prevail.
Appropriation and certification of funds. The County Commissioners, through the County's annual budget process, appropriate funds for all purchases except for the purchases of the Caroline County Health Department. The Director of Purchasing, or the appropriate department head, as the case may be, will certify that funds have been appropriated before purchases are authorized. The Director of Purchasing shall, however, have no responsibility to certify that funds have been appropriated for the purchases of the Caroline County Health Department.
Director of Purchasing. The County Administrator or any employee designated in writing by the County Administrator shall serve as the Director of Purchasing.
Powers and duties. The Director of Purchasing and/or his or her designee shall have the following powers and duties:
Implement the provisions of this chapter and any subsequent regulations for the purpose of purchasing or contracting for goods, services or construction.
Ensure that products or services are provided according to the contract terms.
Supervise bid processes.
Maintain inventory control of County property and assets.
Prescribe and maintain such forms as are reasonably necessary to the operation of this chapter.
Prepare and maintain a vendors list.
Declare a vendor or person who defaults on his/her quotations, contracts, or obligations, or who otherwise has a record of poor or untimely performance, as a "not responsible bidder" and disqualify or debar such vendors or persons from receiving any business from the County for up to five years.
Determine if prequalification of bidders is appropriate and set forth the criteria for prequalification.
Determine if a bidder qualifies as in-County or out-of-County.
Give periodic post-purchase public notice of major purchases.
Prepare specifications for goods, services and construction.
Schedule and hold prebid conferences.
Prepare and distribute addendums to IFBs.
Ensure that all necessary documentation is maintained.
Ensure that expenditures funded by grants comply with the terms and provisions of grant agreements.
Prepare and maintain a purchasing manual.
Provide training and guidance to County departments on purchasing.
Delegation. The Director of Purchasing may delegate part or all of his or her powers and duties to designated Purchasing Agents or other County employees pursuant to this chapter.
County Commissioners. The County Commissioners shall approve all major purchases but may delegate authority to the Director of Purchasing to make a specific major purchase or to have increased purchasing authority within the scope of a specific project, such as construction.
Director of Purchasing or designee. The Director of Purchasing or his or her designee may authorize all minor purchases. Delegation of purchasing approval by the Director of Purchasing shall not relieve him or her of responsibility therefor.
County department heads.
County department heads shall have the purchasing authority as defined below:
Director, Office of Finance: $40,000.
Director, Department of Corrections (Warden): $20,000.
Director, Department of Emergency Services: $20,000.
Director, Department of Public Works: $20,000.
Director, Office of Information Technology: $10,000.
Director, Department of Recreation and Parks: $10,000.
Director, Department of Planning and Codes: $10,000.
Director, Office of Human Resources: $10,000.
Director, Office of Tax (Comptroller): $10,000.
County Attorney, Office of Law: $10,000.
Chief of Staff, Commissioners' Office: $10,000.
A department head may delegate purchasing authority in an amount of up to 50% of the department head's authority to any employee within his or her department. Delegation of purchasing approval by the department head shall not relieve him or her of responsibility therefor. If any purchasing authority is delegated, the department head shall provide the Director of Purchasing with a list of the personnel with the authority to make purchases and the amount delegated.
The Director of Purchasing or his or her designee may temporarily reduce or suspend the purchasing authority for any County department head for cause as determined in the sole and exclusive discretion of the Director of Purchasing.
Caroline County Health Department. The Caroline County Health Department will follow its customary authorization procedures governing when Health Officer approval is required for the commitment of funds. The Department shall not be bound by County authorization limitations.
Allied agencies. As required by state law, the Caroline County Sheriff's Office, the Caroline County State Attorney's Office, the Caroline County Circuit Court, and the Caroline County Board of Elections may enter into written agreements with the County Commissioners authorizing purchasing under this chapter. Allied agencies are not County employees or co-employees and nothing in this subsection may be used to construe such a relationship.
Determination of value. In determining purchasing authority, the value of any goods, services, and/or construction shall be the cumulative value over the term of any contract under which the goods, services, and/or construction is delivered.
Required. A contract is required for major purchases or minor purchases of services.
Authority. The Director of Purchasing, his or her designee and all department heads shall have the authority to enter into contracts on behalf of the County within their purchasing authority; however, all such contracts shall be approved for form and legal sufficiency by the County Attorney. The President of the Board shall sign all contracts for major purchases; however, the Director of Purchasing may sign such contracts where the purchase has been expressly approved by majority vote of the County Commissioners.
Documentation. Copies of all contracts, attachments, addenda, and other legal documents shall be kept in the Office of Law and in the Office of Finance.
The following procedures shall be used for routine purchasing or lease-purchase of goods, services, and construction.
Incidental purchases. While seeking three or more verbal or written bids is recommended, it is not required.
Minor purchases up to $5,000. Three or more verbal bids are required. Verbal bids must be documented and are subject to internal audit.
Minor purchase between $5,001 and $20,000. Three or more written bids are required.
Minor purchases between $20,001 and $40,000. Three or more written proposals are required where such proposals shall be sent to the Director of Purchasing, the Director of Finance or a designee.
Major purchases. Three or more sealed bids are required.
The following procedures may be used for purchasing of goods, services, and construction under the specific circumstances described therein:
Cooperative (piggyback) purchases. As a matter of policy, the County strongly supports cooperative purchasing. This includes the authority to purchase goods, services and construction and the ability to enter into contracts based on existing purchasing, procurement, or contracts of other units of government, including but not limited to the federal government, the State of Maryland, other Maryland counties and municipalities, neighboring local or state governments whether or not such contracts have specifically provided for such cooperative purchasing. Cooperative purchasing or contracts may be done when determined by the Director of Purchasing or his or her designee to be in the County's interest.
Emergency purchases. In the event of an emergency, the President of the Board of County Commissioners shall have the power to suspend requirements of this chapter for such purchases and contracts to secure such goods or services as deemed immediately necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare. After any instance where the requirements of this chapter are suspended in the event of an emergency, the President and Director of Purchasing shall make a full report to the Board regarding any and all such expenditures at the next scheduled Commissioners' meeting.
Sole source. Sole source purchasing may be authorized when 1) only one specific good or service will produce the desired result or is the most appropriate for a given situation; 2) the good or services is only available from one source; and 3) the use of such sole source is economically feasible and operationally in the County's best interest. A request for sole source purchase shall be submitted to the Director of Purchasing and shall include a comprehensive justification. When a sole source purchase is approved, only the President of the Board of Commissioners, the Director of Purchasing, or the Director's designee shall be authorized to sign the contract and/or purchase order.
Professional services. Contracts involving professional services, such as accounting, architecture, auditing, engineering, law, planning and surveying may be negotiated by the Director of Purchasing or a designee rather than competitively bid, with the approval of the County Commissioners.
Service, repair, and maintenance contracts. The nature of service and repair contracts may make it impractical to solicit prices by invitation for bids. Therefore, the Director of Purchasing or his or her designee may request proposals rather than engage in a formal bid process. The Director of Purchasing may consider ongoing vendor relationships in the selection process, as well as other appropriate criteria to justify the final selection.
Services price fixed by law. Services for which the rate or price is fixed by a public authority authorized by law to fix rates or prices may be purchased without competitive bidding.
Lease or purchase of real estate. Because of the nature of limited availability of real property and the specific needs of the County, leases for real property may be made through direct negotiation by the Director of Purchasing and are not otherwise subject to the provisions of this chapter. Leases and fee simple purchases for real property shall be approved by the County Commissioners.
Competitive bids. The preferred method for the County to procure goods, services, and construction is through competitive bid processes. The requirements for informal and formal solicitations shall be defined in the County's purchasing manual. This includes but is not limited to bid bonds, performance bonds, modification of bids, withdrawal of bids, late bids, mistakes in bids, tie bids, single bids, alternate and conditional bids, bid evaluations, bid awards, rejections of bids, and bid protests.
Template documents. The Director of Purchasing shall provide template documents for Requests for Proposals (RFPs), Requests for Qualifications (RFQs), general conditions, and standard legal agreements including a short-form contract, long-form contract, and professional services agreement. All template documents shall be reviewed and approved by the County Attorney for legal sufficiency.
The County Commissioners reserve the right to show preference to local bidders in the purchase, lease, or lease-purchase of goods, services, and construction. The amount of preference shall not exceed 5% in purchases up to or equaling $100,000 and 2.5% in purchases greater than $100,000. Any in-County bidder in default on payment of any County or state tax shall not be eligible to receive preference until all taxes due are paid.
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, it shall be unlawful for any County official or employee to purchase, contract for, or order goods, services or construction for which funds have not been appropriated by the County Commissioners in the County's budget.
Anything in this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, no contract for goods or services shall be entered into by or on behalf of the County, the payment obligations of which contract extend beyond the fiscal year in which the contract is executed, unless the contract contains an appropriations clause allowing the County to terminate the contract if sufficient funds for that contract are not legally appropriated by the County, or unless the contract is specifically approved by the County Commissioners.
Mistakes made by County officials or employees during the purchasing process which do not substantially affect the purchase, but which are contrary to the provisions of this chapter may be waived by the County Commissioners or the Director of Purchasing at their discretion. Mistakes shall not include unauthorized purchases.
Purchase cards. Purchase cards are used to promote efficiency and to reduce paperwork related to incidental and minor purchases. Purchase cards may be issued to authorized employees and may only be used for official County business and in compliance with this chapter to make incidental and minor purchases. The Director of Purchasing or his or her designee shall establish a spending limit for every purchase card. The Director of Purchasing or his or her designee shall have the authority to review, audit, reduce or increase the spending limit, revoke, or cancel any County purchase card without notice. Purchase card users are required to submit all substantiating purchasing documentation, including but not limited to, bid quotes to the Office of Finance.
Purchase orders. Purchase orders are used to authorize the expenditure of County funds to purchase goods, services, and construction. The Director of Purchasing and his or her designee shall have the authority to sign purchase orders. Department heads shall have the authority to sign purchase orders for purchases in conformance with the adopted budget and this chapter for up to the amount of their purchasing authority.
Open purchase orders. An open purchase order may be authorized to facilitate the repeat purchase of goods, services, or construction over the course of a fiscal year. An open purchase order shall have a not-to-exceed limit in conformance with the adopted budget.
Recurring expenses. A purchase order is not necessary for the payment of a recurring expense such as a utility bill; however, a file shall be created and maintained for every recurring expense where such file shall include the legal authorization for the expenses and other such documents as required by the Director of Purchasing.
No contract or purchase shall be subdivided to avoid the requirements of this chapter.
The Director of Purchasing or his or her designee shall ensure proper inspection and review of all goods, services, and construction, and shall determine conformance with specifications or requirements set forth in bid documents, purchase orders, and/or contracts. The Director of Purchasing, department heads, Purchasing Agents, or individuals to whom such duties may be delegated shall indicate the receipt and acceptance of goods, services, or construction by completion of a receiving form as provided by the Office of Finance.
The Director of Purchasing, Purchasing Agents, department heads, and every official and employee of the County are expressly prohibited from accepting, directly or indirectly, from any person to which any purchase order or contract is or might be awarded any rebate, gift, money or anything of value whatsoever, except where given for the use or benefit of the County, or except as otherwise allowed under the County's Code of Ethics as embodied in Chapter 33 of this Code.
Unless otherwise directed by the Director of Purchasing, all material relevant to purchases made pursuant to this chapter shall be maintained by the department at whose direction or upon whose behalf a contract for goods or services is made. Notwithstanding the foregoing, all documentation required to be submitted to the Director of Purchasing or to the Director of Finance shall be so submitted with originals or copies, as the case may be, to be retained by such department, including, but not limited to, titles, registrations, warranties, and instructional and operating manuals. Wherever possible, such materials shall be referenced to the applicable item or service and the contract relating thereto.
The Director of Purchasing is authorized to prepare a purchasing manual and additional regulations as necessary where such manual and additional regulations may be adopted by the County Commissioners by resolution.
Introduction. Any County employee may propose that a vendor be debarred from doing business with the County based upon the poor quality of goods or services provided, the timeliness of providing such goods or services, the breach of any warranty or contract term or condition relating to the supplying of such goods or services, or any other matter or reason deemed sufficient by the employee to warrant such action.
The employee shall refer such proposal to debar to the employee's department head, who shall review the allegation, claims, circumstances, and documentation prepared or provided by the employee and determine whether or not to forward such proposal to the Director of Purchasing.
If the department head shall determine that the proposal should be considered further, the department head shall forward the proposal and all pertinent documentation to the Director of Purchasing, who shall review the material.
If the Director of Purchasing shall determine that the matter should be further pursued, the Director of Purchasing shall notify the vendor by first class mail, postage prepaid, that there has been a proposal to debar the vendor from doing business with the County, and provide the vendor an opportunity to be heard (a hearing) by the Director of Purchasing and to address the facts and circumstances regarding the matter.
Any hearing held pursuant hereto shall be informal, shall not be subject to formal rules of evidence or procedure, and shall provide the vendor an opportunity to review any written material regarding the matter. The vendor shall not have the right to call witnesses or cross-examine any County employee. A vendor may submit a written statement, summary, or other document in support of the vendor's position in the matter.
The Director of Purchasing shall determine the weight and credibility to be given any documentation, evidence, and testimony submitted in the matter.
The Director of Purchasing shall render a decision promptly and, unless delayed for good cause, within 30 days after the hearing. The failure of a vendor to appear at the hearing shall not prohibit the Director of Purchasing from issuing a decision in the matter.
A vendor may be debarred for a period not to exceed five years from the date the Director of Purchasing renders a decision.
A vendor may have the right to appeal a debarment decision of the Director of Purchasing to the Debarment Panel. The composition of the Panel, the procedures for the conduct of the appeal hearing, and the standards for the Panel's decision shall be set forth in the purchasing manual required by § 51-18 of this chapter.
Whenever in the Code of Public Local Laws of Caroline County, or in any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder or pursuant thereto, reference is made to the "Purchasing Officer," such reference shall be deemed to be to the "Director of Purchasing" as if the same had been originally placed or substituted therefore in such provision.