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Mayor's employer submits low bid

November 19, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Thursday he wants the Washington County Ethics Commission to decide whether it's appropriate for the city to buy a pickup truck from his employer.

City Council members are to vote Tuesday on whether to approve an $18,725 contract with Hagerstown Ford Co. for a pickup truck for the city's sewer department.

Hagerstown Ford was the low bidder.

Bruchey said he asked the city attorney's advice on Thursday after a Herald-Mail reporter asked him if the contract would be ethical.

The city's ethics code states that city officials shall not "be employed by a business entity that has or is negotiating a contract of more than $1,000 with the city."

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"If you read it in black and white, it would appear that I'm not exempt," Bruchey said.

He said he might be exempt because of a clause in the ethics code that says prohibiting certain contracts would "significantly reduce the availability of qualified persons for public service."

"I can look at myself in the mirror every night ... The decisions that I make that affect this city are more than ethical," Bruchey said.

Bruchey, who is Hagerstown Ford's fleet department manager, was not involved in submitting the bid nor would he receive a commission if the sale is approved, said Charlie Benson, the dealership's general manager.

As mayor, Bruchey votes only to break a tie.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman has said Bruchey couldn't break a tie on a contract with his employer.

This is the first time Hagerstown Ford has been the low bidder for a city contract since Bruchey, who became mayor in June 1997, began working for the firm in January 1998.

"The bottom line is that the Hagerstown Ford bid is $338 less than the next competitive bid," Bruchey said. The next lowest bid was $19,063 from Bob Bell Chevrolet of Baltimore, followed by a bid of $19,122 from Sharrett Inc. of Hagerstown.

Bruchey said that at last Tuesday's meeting, he supported awarding a different bid to a competitor, Sharrett Inc., even though Sharrett wasn't the low bidder. Bruchey said he wants that award to go to Sharrett because it is a Hagerstown firm and its bid was only $159 more than that of Keystone Ford, of Greencastle, Pa.

Bruchey said the ethics code also applies to council members and many other city employees.

In the summer of 1994, the city stopped using an Alma, N.Y., firm to recondition the city's old water pipes, said Water Department Manager Gene Walzl.

Councilman William M. Breichner has worked for that firm, Mainlining Services Inc., since 1987. The firm had done work for the city for 26 years.

Dave White, the city's purchasing manager, said the city has not approved contracts with any other companies that employ City Council members.

Hagerstown Ford started bidding on city vehicle contracts during the past year after creating a fleet department, which is headed by Bruchey, Benson said.

Bruchey is involved in the bidding process for vehicles for Washington County and the Washington County Board of Education, he said.

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