This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
On Tuesday evening, September 24, the Longmont Observer was awarded the contract for Public Access TV Services by the Longmont City Council.
The final vote was 5 to 2, with Mayor Bagley and Councilmember Finley dissenting.
Several community members spoke at Public Invited to Be Heard, asking council to vote no on approving the contract.
For 37 years, public access television has been run by the Longmont Cable Trust. In 2018, the Longmont City Council asked city staff to initiate an RFP (Request for Proposals) process.
The RFP invited organizations and businesses to submit proposals based on a number of factors among which included utilizing the existing funds to meet community needs and to establish a sustainable business model to ensure that public access remains available to the Longmont community.
The Longmont Observer submitted a proposal to the City of Longmont in early June of 2019.
On Monday, June 17, 2019, City of Longmont Procurement Specialist Valerie Scott emailed Longmont Observer publisher Scott Converse that the City of Longmont evaluation team "would like to invite Longmont Observer to interview as a finalist on Monday, June 24, 2019 at 3:00 p.m".
The email also stated that "Within the next few days, I [Valerie Scott] will forward details including an agenda for your interview and questions our team would like you to prepare to answer" and that the Longmont Observer should "prepare a 5-10 minute presentation about why the City should choose you, in the format of your choice (be as creative as you’d like). "
Here is the email in full:
Invitation to Interview: City of Longmont RFP-VS-19065
|Valerie Scott <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Jun 17, 2019, 3:19 PM|
Good afternoon, Scott:
After reviewing proposals received for RFP-VS-19065, PEG Access Television Services, the City of Longmont evaluation team would like to invite Longmont Observer to interview as a finalist on Monday, June 24, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. Please let me know if your team has any conflict with that interview time.
Within the next few days, I will forward details including an agenda for your interview and questions our team would like you to prepare to answer. We would like you to prepare a 5-10 minute presentation about why the City should choose you, in the format of your choice (be as creative as you’d like). There will be a computer, large display TV, and internet connection available in the interview room. If you have any questions, please let me know.
Valerie Scott, CPPB | Procurement Specialist
On Monday, June 24, the Longmont Observer presented to the City of Longmont evaluation team with the following presentation:
The following video was included in the presentation as an example of the types of training the Longmont Observer plans to provide and the quality of work people can expect to get out of the experience. In this particular situation, Adam Steininger had not worked with video before. He worked with several volunteers to film the Longmont Pride event and then produce the video. In total, Steininger spent roughly eight hours on the project.
The presentations were completed by each organization and the committee followed up with clarification questions. These are the answers submitted by the Longmont Observer:
On Monday, July 22, 2019, the City of Longmont notified the Longmont Observer via email that the "evaluation team has recommended awarding Longmont Observer for the City of Longmont RFP-VS-19065, Public, Educational, and Government Access Television Services" and that the City "would like to pursue contract negotiations with your team."
The award document, as well as Scotts' email, stated that "The undersigned understands and agrees that its status as the recommended awardee as well as discussions, negotiations and correspondence shall remain confidential between the City, its agents and assigns, and your company during the period leading up to the full execution of signed contract between the parties."
From that moment on, the Longmont Observer was in negotiations with the City of Longmont for the public access television contract. The City made it clear that if the Longmont Observer spoke with anyone outside of City personnel, that the contract would be immediately voided.
Negotiations continued from late July until early September. Due to a line in the Longmont Municipal Code, RFPs issued for the Cable Trust and their resulting contracts would need to be approved by Longmont's City Council.
At the time the Longmont City Council Agenda for September 24, 2019 was published, the public was made aware that the Longmont Observer was awarded the contract for Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) Access Television Services. The following are the documents provided in the agenda and to city council.
R-2019-92, A Resolution Of The Longmont City Council Approving The City Of Longmont, Services Contract, Proposal # RFP-VS-19065, For Public, Educational, And Governmental (PEG) Access Television Services was pulled from the consent agenda by Councilmember Bonnie Finley for discussion.
A presentation on the City of Longmont's RFP process was made by Valerie Scott, procurement specialist. Here is that presentation, Scott's full presentation is included in the video below.
Following the presentation, city council members engaged in conversation around R-2019-92.
Although the contract, topic, and city council decision were all public on September 24, 2019, the Longmont Observer was obligated to adhere to the confidentiality of the contract until the document was signed by Mayor Brian Bagley on Septemeber 25, 2019.
During the council meeting, Councilmember Finley brought up the topic of Scott Converse's, publisher of the Longmont Observer, appointment on the Cable Trust Board and questions she had. She stated that allegations were made by Tim Chaffin, General Manager of the Cable Trust, indicating that Converse had looked at the RFP bid for the Cable Trust prior to submitting a bid from the Longmont Observer. Mayor Brian Bagley also commented on his concerns about the potential improprieties he'd heard.
Due to the confidentiality agreement, the Longmont Observer and Scott Converse were unable to respond to these allegations until the contract was signed. Once the contract was signed, this email was sent by Scott Converse to the entire City Council and senior City of Longmont managers:
|Scott Converse <email@example.com>||Sep 27, 2019, 5:15 PM|
|to City Council Members, City Mgmt.|
Dear City Council members.
Thank you to those of you who voted to approve the RFP Award to provide Public Access Media to the Longmont Observer. Our hope is to create a new kind of Public Access Media Makerspace that creates a rich, deep and wide community of locally focused media creators in Longmont.
Now that the contract is signed and the 'cone of silence' is lifted I would like to speak to a part of the conversation that happened on Tuesday night I, personally, found more than a little disturbing.
I would like to state, unequivocally, that I did not act unethically, engage in any sort or fraud and that I did not get a 'sneak peek' at the Cable Trust bid, as was alleged by Tim Chaffin and others.
At the pre-bid meeting held by the City of Longmont in May of 2019. I told Tim Chaffin (ED), Marshall Allen (then president) and Phillip Huff (Cable Trust board member) that the Longmont Observer had decided to bid on the RFP and that I would recuse myself from the Cable Trust RFP bid process and would immediately resign from the Cable Trust board if the Longmont Observer won the bid.
That's exactly what I did.
I would suggest you check the records. The only communication with the Cable Trust board of directors regarding the RFP was an email sent on May 17th from Tim Chaffin, was titled "Longmont Cable Trust - City of Longmont RFP" and contained only a copy of the RFP. No bid. No discussion of the bid other than a statement that Mr. Chaffin would call an informal meeting of the board members for input and review (a meeting I was not invited to). It also stated that I was at the pre-proposal meeting and that the Longmont Observer was going to bid on the RFP, so, the Cable Trust board was well aware early on the Longmont Observer was a competitor and would be bidding on the RFP.
There were no other communications with the Cable Trust board about the RFP that I was copied on or that I am aware of.
You can check this through an open records request or with City Staff, who may have already looked into this, to see what was sent to the entire board by looking at the two City Council members emails who are also on the board mailing list (i.e. Martin and Finely).
I would also like to say that Tuesday nights public implications of fraud and unethical behavior, going off of unsubstantiated and incorrect hearsay, in a public forum, specifically targeting me personally, was unfair, unprofessional and harmed the ability of the Longmont Observer to deliver on it's strategy for Public Access Media for our city. Building a self-sustaining media makerspace, as is our intent, requires the entire community to engage and support the effort. These unsubstantiated and intentional misrepresentations, in a very public forum, damaged our ability to do that.
In a fair and equitable world, people who do things like this admit their mistakes, try to fix the damage they did and make public apologies when they're wrong.
One can hope.
Before releasing this article the Longmont Observer contacted Assistant City Manager Sandi Seeder and Scott to ensure that the confidentiality of this agreement was lifted. Here is the email confirmation:
At the beginning of the City Council meeting on Tuesday night, October 1st, Mayor Brian Bagley took the unusual action of adding to the agenda the reading aloud most of the email sent by Converse (full version published above) to the City Council a few days earlier. Mayor Bagley added at the end of his comments 'my apologies on behalf of council'. Mayor Bagley's comments can be seen here:
A local newspaper, wrote an accurate story on the topic, although it placed the body of the story behind a paywall and used a misleading headline.
Now that the Longmont Observer is able to discuss the topic, we welcome the community to reach out with their questions.
"We know that not everyone loves that the Longmont Observer was awarded the contract, but we will work hard to change that," states Longmont Observer President, Sergio Angeles. "Our aim is to create the best public access television channel and studios in Colorado and across the US."
We are hosting a meeting each Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Longmont Observer office, 356 1/2 Main St. Unit 6. The meeting is open to the public.
This meeting is designed to engage community members and to invite those interested to help us create a public access media makerspace. Questions can be addressed at the meeting.
Also, coming soon will be other community meetings that will gain feedback as to what kind of content the residents of Longmont wish to see.
While the Longmont Observer was the entity awarded the contract, it has always been our plan to create another organization to handle the services under the public access contract. It is important to us that the news of the Longmont Observer not interfere or be interfered with by the public access media. The name for this new organization has yet to be determined and a future article will announce a process for the Longmont community to contribute to helping name Longmont's new Public Access Media.
The Longmont Observer has never wanted to hide our involvement in the process of bidding for the Public Access Media bid. Again, we welcome questions from the community. It is our hope that this article has allowed everyone the opportunity to see the steps we took through the process.
Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or attend one of our meetings on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at 356 1/2 Main St. Unit 6.
We look forward to hearing what Longmont wants from its new Public Access Media.