The Leflore County Board of Supervisors is trying to circumvent Mississippi’s purchasing laws by treating the purchase of new pickup trucks for three board members as three separate transactions, rather than one.
Whether that circumvention is legal is a matter of dispute. Johnny Gary Jr., the first-year chancery clerk, said his office got the OK from the State Audit Department that since none of the trucks will cost more than $50,000, the county does not have to ask for bids but can instead seek two quotes. Sam Abraham, who previously served in Gary’s job for 20 years, said if that was the advice, it’s mistaken.
Experience, however, did not prevail Monday, as Abraham’s fellow supervisors by a 3-2 vote rejected his advice that they get an attorney general’s opinion before proceeding.
Even if what the majority on the board is doing is legal, it’s not in the public’s best interest.
The way to hold down costs on public purchases is to give anyone who can competently provide the good or service a chance, whether by soliciting sealed bids or holding a reverse auction.
If everyone who wants to bid is given that chance, that also shields the public body from allegations that it is showing favoritism to one business over another.
It’s questionable whether supervisors deserve this perk anyway for a part-time job in a county that operates under a centralized unit system of road maintenance and repair. Some supervisors — including Abraham and his predecessor, Phil Wolfe — have gotten along fine without a taxpayer-provided vehicle.
But if the supervisors are going to have these pickups, they need to buy them as frugally as possible. That means putting the purchase out for bid.