City rail committee didn't keep minutes
By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer
A city committee that reviewed construction bids for Honolulu's planned rail project did not keep minutes of meetings that led to the awarding a $483 million construction contract to build the first phase of the rail line.
The city did disclose committee member scoring sheets used to award the contract. However, the city won't have to disclose further details about what happened during the meetings because the five-member committee didn't keep minutes, according to the state Office of Information Practices.
A separate, four-member city contract evaluation committee did keep minutes of a meeting in July 2007 that led to awarding a much smaller rail-related contract. Those minutes were eventually released to the public and showed that some committee members expressed disappointment that only two firms sought the contract.
The city has awarded the biggest rapid transit contract so far to Kiewit Pacific Co. in October. The Advertiser requested minutes from evaluation committee meetings leading to that award on Oct. 27.
On Nov. 17 the city said it had notes of evaluation committee meetings, but that disclosing them would frustrate the agency's decision-making process.
At the time, the city did not disclose that minutes were not taken during evaluation committee meetings. That was disclosed in a December e-mail between the state Office of Information Practices and city Deputy Corporation Counsel Reid Yamashiro.
The Advertiser had requested OIP's aid in obtaining minutes of meetings
Members of the committee that evaluated a total of five proposals, including Kiewit's bid, took notes but the committee was not required to keep minutes because it was not subject to the state Sunshine Law, according to a Jan. 5 letter to The Advertiser from the OIP.
Prior to the Kiewit deal, the largest city rapid transit contract was a 2007, $86 million deal with PB Americas to conduct preliminary engineering and environmental impact studies.
The committee that awarded the PB contract kept minutes from a July 2007 meeting that were later released following an Advertiser Freedom of Information request. According to the minutes of that meeting, some members expressed disappointment that only two firms sought the contract — PB Americas and Morristown, N.J.-based Louis Berger Group Inc. One committee member said the city should have done more to publicize the contract.
Committee members were told by a city transportation official during the July 2007 meeting that their role was to decide which firm was better qualified, rather than to question city solicitation procedures, according to the minutes.
City transportation director Wayne Yoshioka said the decision on whether to keep evaluation committee meeting minutes is up to committee members.
Yoshioka noted that the city did release committee scoring sheets. Those sheets showed that Kiewit's bid was the lowest and generally scored higher than competitors among evaluation committee members on criteria such as management approach, personnel experience, technical solutions, schedule, price realism and project support.