Charleston County admonishes Sheriff’s Office for ‘unauthorized’ contract

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 12:30 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A Charleston County governmental department said the county sheriff failed to follow the rules when she hired a consulting company to produce a report.

In January, Sheriff Kristen Graziano signed a contract with Vanessa Gongora of Mila Consulting, LLC for a total of $15,285 worth of services.

The intention was for the company to assess the Sheriff’s Office’s current communication with Limited English Proficient individuals and produce a final report for the language access plan.

But in a letter dated March 8, 2022, Barrett Tolbert, the director of the county’s Contracts and Procurement Department, stated Graziano failed to follow the rules.

“[The] consulting agreement... did not receive the required authorization from the Procurement Department,” Tolbert wrote. “The agreement was inappropriately signed, contracts and agreements are only signed by the Director of Contracts & Procurement and the County Administrator.”

The letter is addressed to Chief Ameed Sad with the Sheriff’s Office.

Procurement policy requires any contracts with a county agency worth more than $10,000 to require at least three qualified suppliers to be considered.

Tolbert goes on to write, “This procurement does not meet the criteria for Sole source/Non-competitive procurement, and two additional quotes for services should have been obtained to complete the process.”

A request to interview Tolbert was denied.

Instead, Live 5 News was directed to the county’s procurement ordinance (Sec. 2-151) which states the procurement policy “is to provide for the fair and equitable treatment of all persons involved in public purchasing by the county, to maximize the purchasing value of public funds in procurement, and to provide safeguards for maintaining a procurement system of quality and integrity.”

In the contract, the Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay $4,995 per contract phase, which are listed as March 31, July 30, and Aug 31, 2022. The agreement also included expense reimbursements for travel, meals, postage and copying.

Spending transparency reports also show Camila Consulting, LLC (the previous name of Mila Consulting according to the State secretary’s website) received $4,995 in consulting fees in November 2021, before the contract took effect.

Per regulation, the county requested written determination as to the facts and circumstances surrounding the act, corrective action being taken, action against the individual committing the act, and documentation that the price paid is fair and reasonable.

If proven unreasonable, the individual committing the act may be held “pecuniarily liable for the difference.”

The Sheriff’s Office had until March 24 to provide this documentation. Sherrif’s Office spokesman Andrew Knapp says no documentation was submitted to the procurement office in response to the letter.

The agency released the following statement Thursday:

This contract did not go through the county procurement process as the funds came directly from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office budget. CCSO routinely submits to the process when a contract would call for a commitment of funds directly from Charleston County’s budget. This contract remains in effect and fulfills the need to begin addressing issues related to underserved minority communities. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs that receive federal funds. The Sheriff’s Office receives federal grant funding and is committed to providing equal access to its law enforcement services to all community members. This effort will help identify ways in which we can do better and fully comply with Title VI.

County spokesperson Kelsey Barlow states there is no further investigation.

You can find the county’s procurement ordinance here.

Copyright 2022 WCSC. All rights reserved.