Procurement director criticized by commission before resignation

Photo by Norman Schimmel

After less than 10 months on the job, Sarasota County Procurement Director Mark Thiele turned in his resignation June 19.

County Administrator Randall Reid said the action “emphasizes the county’s commitment to additional integrity and transparency in the procurement operation, along with the need to institute, enforce and follow the new professional procurement process being implemented by the county,” a county news release said.

“That process emphasizes accountability to gain public trust and provide exceptional procurement services,” the news release added.

Thiele’s first day on the job in Sarasota County was Aug. 29, 2010. Prior to that, he was the manager of procurement for the City of Cape Coral, according to county records.

Deputy County Administrator Bill Little will temporarily serve as the procurement official while the county conducts a search to fill the position, the news release noted.

“Little has overseen procurement system changes both for former Interim County Administrator Terry Lewis” and for Reid, the release pointed out.

The announcement about Thiele’s resignation came exactly a month after he appeared before the Sarasota County commissioners to concede that a roadside mowing bid he had recommended they approve in January — despite numerous reservations they voiced — had proved problematic. Thiele told the commissioners on May 22 that the county was terminating the contract with the firm.

Commissioner Joe Barbetta questioned Thiele extensively again on June 5 in regard to the evaluation of firms bidding for the construction management services contract for the new Gulf Gate Library.

Barbetta took no issue with awarding the bid to Willis A. Smith Construction Inc., but he queried Thiele on what he called a big disparity among scores given to one firm by members of the evaluating committee. Barbetta suggested perhaps a better scoring system was needed.

During Thiele’s last appearance before the commission — his department’s budget presentation on June 13 — Thiele said his staff was “bidding and quoting everything we can” to save the county money on projects.

Referring to the 2011 scandal in the department, which predated his employment, Thiele said he had addressed all 151 recommendations the county had received after the commission requested the National Institute of Government Purchasing review the department’s practices.

Thiele also mentioned the county’s new eProcure system, which went online in May. “The feedback we’re getting so far is 99.9% [good]” from vendors, he said.

Additionally, Thiele said he hoped users would find the county’s new Procurement Code “simpler and easier to follow,” and that he and his staff were drafting a new employee handbook for his department, which he expected to be “very user-friendly.”

The county news release about Thiele’s departure said, “Reid emphasized that the county has made extensive changes to its procurement systems and processes and will continue to strengthen staff and procurement policies.”

Additional reporting by Cooper Levey-Baker