With their split decision handing administration of Dubuque County’s low-income assistance program to a local nonprofit organization, county supervisors sparked more questions than provided answers.
How did the county Veterans Affairs office, which has been handling the program since 2013, fall so short of the mark that it is being relieved of this responsibility?
Jay Wickham, the supervisor who pushed (previously and currently) for the no-bid contract for Resources Unite, said of the Veterans Affairs office, “I think they’ve also done a fine job with general assistance, but I think there’s other providers in the community that can provide that type of assistance.”
No doubt, there are. So, how was it decided to give Resources Unite the nine-month contract (Sept. 1-June 30) without soliciting proposals from those other providers?
How was the $30,000 figure decided? Will there be expense reductions or other efficiencies in Veterans Affairs or anywhere in county government to offset the transition?
Exactly when was this decision made? The director of Veterans Affairs, Randy Rennison, indicates that it was communicated to him by Wickham as a done deal before it was voted upon in a public meeting. When and where did Wickham receive Dave Baker’s assent to speak to Rennison with that level of confidence?
(The third supervisor, Ann McDonough, properly voted “no” on the motion, arguing for closer study of the issue and consideration of more agencies.)
Wickham has said that he believes he has “been pretty transparent in my interest in changing this (assistance) program.” That’s true. More than 2½ years ago, in January 2017, he pushed to hand Resources Unite a no-bid contract. He also said recently, “Let’s use some of our private social service agencies, which are outlined here, to help serve our poor and our needy, because that’s what they do well.”
That’s true, too. So, why was one agency hand-picked to receive the contract? And why were the past 2½ years — not that it would take nearly that long — not used to solicit and review proposals from other social service agencies, nearly all of which have been around longer than Resources Unite?
Having Resources Unite handle administration of Dubuque County’s general assistance program — subject to supervisors’ oversight — might be the right call. However, with so many concerning questions about how all this came about, it doesn’t feel right.