Bids for Dixon City Legal Notices Expose Scanal

Before each fiscal year, which begins on July 1, cities with more than one Newspaper of General Circulation are required to seek bids for publishing that city’s legal notices. As is its habit, the City of Dixon was considerably late in doing so – with bids not opened until August 11. The bid award should have been made at the August 22 council meeting, but the matter was not even on the agenda.
As of deadline for this issue, councilmembers had not been shown the submitted bids. Both the delay and the secrecy can be attributed to a shocking, and scandalous, fact revealed in the bid documents.
As in all the past years, the bid offered by Dixon’s Independent Voice (IV) was again about forty percent lower than that by the Tribune – owned by a Marin County banker. And also as in the past, the IV circulation was much greater than “Brand T” – although the later claimed more paid subscribers (490).
For the past two years the city council has “structured” (aka rigged) the Requests for Proposals to prevent the IV from qualifying for the contract, despite the lower rates and greater distribution.
The Tribune in the past year charged $6.50 per column inch and claimed about 1,300 copies delivered on Wednesdays and Fridays; and over 3,000 on Sundays. But this year’s bid admitted those figures are, and have been for some time, about half the number claimed. Just a maximum 660 – yes, only six-hundred and sixty copies – on Wednesdays and Fridays, and about 2,100 on Sundays. While their circulation drop precipitously in half, they continued to charge the city the same high premium rate.
The IV has for years offered a rate equal to about $1 – one dollar – per one-thousand copies delivered. In the past that was $4.50 per column inch for about 4,500 delivered, and now is $4.25 for the currently 4,250 delivered.
The Tribune is charging the city about ten times more for weekdays delivery and about three times more for Sunday, versus the IV Friday delivery.
Meanwhile, although the contract with the Tribune has expired and city officials know about the meager distribution, the city continues to place its legal notices only with the Tribune.
In the first staff report for council discussion on the contract this year, a declaration was included that the purpose is to get the information to as many people as possible.
The city also has a “Locally Owned Business Preference Ordinance” which requires contracts to be awarded to such business if their bid is lowest, or within five-percent of the next lowest bid.
The IV has been Dixon’s only locally owned newspaper for over 24 years. The Tribune is owned by a Vallejo based company controlled by a Marin County banker who never has lived in Dixon.
The ordinance also requires RFPs to include a notice of the ordinance – but the RFP for the current contract did not – another violation. Further, state contract law requires notices for bids must be published twice – a full week apart. But the city published the RFP only four days apart.
The contract issue is scheduled to be on the September 26 Agenda of the City Council – meanwhile city officials continue their policy of flouting the laws and keeping the pubic uninformed.

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