Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Documents recently provided by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), in response to an Open Records request from CapitolBeatOK and The City Sentinel, revealed an effort to skirt a fair and open competitive bidding process in 2017.
In April of last year, the department director was internally alerted of the competitive bid process. The agency’s procurement officer was advised by Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) on May 30 that a contract of this sort must be competitively bid. Subsequently, ODWC issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) — although it had already hired Anglin PR through a Purchasing Requisition.
The Purchasing Requisition dated May 1 was issued by ODWC to Anglin PR to “Evaluate the Expo’s return on investment” pursuant to SW135, the statewide contract for advertising and marketing services, for the cost of $17,100.
According to department records, the agency each year spends $698,000, including labor costs, on the Wildlife Expo held at the Lazy E Arena.
Most of the evaluation work by Anglin PR was completed prior to the time when ODWC issued an RFP on June 7 “to assist in the evaluation of the Agency’s annual Oklahoma Wildlife Expo per SW135” with a seven-day response deadline.
ODWC’s Certified Procurement Officer Paul Proctor wrote, ”So we set a quick one week deadline, and then issued out the PO to Anglin PR after the closing date . . . seemed to require us to do a lot of extra busy work which had no significance to the outcome and only slowed down the entire process. We were even considering submitting a formal complaint to OMES.”
Four Oklahoma City advertising and public relations agencies responded to the department’s RFP on the closing date of June 14. However, there is no documentation that Anglin PR submitted a response to the RFP on or around the June 14 deadline.
During the RFP open period, one of the PR agencies asked for “any prior research for this event. If so, would we have access to it?” The department’s Information Supervisor Micah Holmes responded, “There are annual visitor surveys, but no specific public relations research.”
Holmes and other ODWC officials sent over 40 documents to Anglin PR, but there is no record that the same information was provided to the other four agencies who responded to the RFP. The documents provided to Anglin PR included Wildlife Expo surveys, Wildlife Expo marketing materials and general information, and nationwide industry research.
One of the surveys conducted by OSU-OKC in 2015 found that nearly half of all Wildlife Expo attendees thought it was a Lazy E Arena event and could not name the event’s presenter; and another survey in 2016 found that 26 percent of respondents (in the words of an agency document) “could not identify anything the ODWC does to benefit wildlife conservation.”
While the RFP was being issued, Anglin PR sent an email requesting “an in-person meeting” with ODWC Director J.D. Strong on June 13 or 14, when the RFP was still open, and asked ODWC for a P.O. in order to send an invoice.
The day after the RFP closed, ODWC issued a Purchase Order to Anglin PR with an undated proposal attached. The undated proposal was the same proposal dated March 29 that Anglin PR had previously submitted to the department. The Purchase Order was awarded at the same price as the March 29 proposal and the May 1 Purchasing Requisition of $17,100.
After being alerted about the state’s competitive bidding process as early as April and again by OMES on May 30, documents indicate that ODWC pushed forward with its initial arrangement with Anglin PR.
The process could be viewed as a failure to abide by Oklahoma’s fair and open bidding process, which is required under Oklahoma law.