Conflicting Micrographing Contract Recommendations Raise Questions

(November 18)  Eleven months after county assessor Dennis Draeger recommended that the board of supervisors approved a $5 million, three-year contract with a Sun Valley-based company to micrograph, index and redact documents filed with the assessor/recorder/county clerk’s office, the board this week entered into an alternative contract, this one for $600,000 with a Florida-based company, for redaction services.
On Tuesday, the board okayed the payment of $600,000 to Computing System Innovations of Apopka, Florida to provide daily and historic redaction services for the assessor-recorder-county clerk, for a contract term beginning December 1, 2014 and running through November 30, 2017, with two one-year options to extend the term of the contract.
The board did so upon the recommendation of  Draeger, the county assessor-recorder/county clerk. In making his recommendation this time around, Draeger suggested that Computing System Innovations was better qualified than all of its competitors to carry out the redaction work.
Curiously, however, last year, at its final meeting in 2013, Draeger suggested something different when he recommended that the board of supervisors approve a $5,000,000 contract with PFA, Inc. of Sun Valley to provide micrographics, film conversion, indexing, and redaction services for the assessor-recorder-county clerk-recorder’s division from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2016, with two one-year options to extend the term of the contract.
At that time,  Draeger said he intended the assessor-recorder-county clerk’s office to “utilize the services of PFA, Inc. to provide micrographics, film conversion, indexing, and redaction work for a three-year term, with two one-year options to extend the term of the contract. This contract includes four distinct types of work, all of which are vital to the daily operation of the recorder division. The first type of work, micrographics, involves converting scanned images to microfilm and vice versa. More than 550,000 documents were recorded by assessor-recorder-county clerk in calendar year 2012, and all of those documents were received in image form or were scanned in-house. Those documents are then converted to microfilm to preserve permanent county records as mandated by state law. The second type of work, film conversion, places digital, microfiche and film images of documents on silver or Diazo film for more durable preservation. The third type of work consists of indexing fields on recorded documents that can then be used to retrieve the document images within the recorder’s system. The fourth type of work, redaction, involves creating a public record version of each official record by redacting the first five digits of each social security number found in an official record, as mandated by Government Code Section 27301. All four types of work will involve current documents; in addition, documents dating back to January 1, 1980, will be redacted as mandated by Government Code Section 27301.”
Draeger recommended that PFA, which had the county contract for all of the microfilming,  conversion, indexing and redaction services since 2006, be given the three-year, $5 million contract after the county sought bids on the service in April 2013, obtaining bids from seven interested vendors, including HOV Services of  Carson; Extract Systems of Madison, Wisconsin; American Cadastre LLC of Herndon, Virginia; Xerox ACS Enterprise Solutions of San Ramon; PFA; and Midwest Micro Imaging of Golden Valley, Minnesota; as well as Computing System Innovations of Apopka, Florida.
Last December, Draeger told the board that “Staff from the  assessor-recorder-county clerk’s office and the purchasing department reviewed all of the proposals and independently evaluated each proposal’s merit based on technical ability, cost and references” and “the evaluators took care to note minimum vendor and proposal requirements and rated the vendors on understanding of the assessor-recorder-county clerk’s needs, accurate and complete description of technical processes, ability to handle sensitive data, ability to meet timelines, and experience. The vendors were asked to provide costs per unit of service instead of estimating an overall contract amount.  “The evaluation committee recommended PFA for a contract to provide micrographics, film conversion, indexing, and redaction services to the assessor-recorder-county clerk’s office based on the cumulative decision that their technical ability exceeded the ability of the other vendors and their references were superior. PFA was not consistently the lowest or highest bidder when comparing vendors’ costs. However, due to the technical nature of the work involved, accuracy was felt to be more critical than cost. PFA provides an accuracy rate of 99.95% with quality assurance controls at no additional charge. Due to a previous protest regarding redaction services, great effort was taken to assure uniformity and fairness during the evaluation process. Despite staff’s effort, an appeal to the decision to award the contract to PFA was received by the purchasing department. The purchasing agent communicated with the vendor and addressed the questions put forth in the protest.”
The board, however, in December 2013 held off on approving the $5 million contract as recommended by Draeger, instead extending the contract with the company for another two months.
In February of this year, after originally scheduling a consideration of the extending the contract with PFA for five years for February 11 but continuing it until February 25, the board approved a reduced contract with PFA to provide micrographics, film conversion, and indexing services for the assessor-recorder-county clerk, in an amount not to exceed $1,600,000, beginning March 2, 2014 through February 28, 2017, with two one-year options to extend the term of the contract. It rejected all proposals for redaction services and terminated the scope of work for redaction services under the request for proposal and approved an amendment to the agreement with PFA to have it continue with current redaction services from March 2, 2014 through November 30, 2014,  increasing the not-to-exceed amount of its original 2006 contract with PFI by $35,000, from $7,207,517 to $7,242,517.
In a report/recommendation to the board of supervisors this week, Draeger wrote, “Redaction services are necessary for the recorder division to meet government mandates and to support the information management plans in the assessor-recorder-county clerk’s office. The recommended contract with Computing System Innovations (CSI) is for redaction services, which is vital to daily operations. Redaction creates a public version of each official record by redacting the first five digits of any Social Security number as required by law. On January 31,2006,  the board approved Agreement No. 06-124 with PFA, Inc. to provide micrographics, film conversion, and indexing services. This contract has been amended six times to include redaction services, increase project cost, and extend the term, most recently on February 25, 2014 to extend the term for redaction services to November 30, 2014.
The chief executive officer approved the release of a request for proposal for micrographics, film conversion, indexing, and redaction services on April 18, 2013. The board approved Agreement No. 14-62 with PFA on February 25, 2014 to award the contract for three of the four services. The board determined that further clarification of the technical requirements was needed for daily and historic redaction services, and therefore a new request for proposal was released on May 14, 2014. The assessor-recorder-county clerk’s office  received proposals for redaction services from four interested vendors as follows: Computing System Innovations Apopka, FL $600,000; Extract Systems, LLC Madison, WI $495,750; Mentis Technology Solutions, LLC Centennial, CO $881,100; and Ricoh USA, Inc Malvern, PA $853,500.
An evaluation team consisting of staff from the assessor-recorder-county clerk’s office, finance and administration, purchasing, and the county of Riverside evaluated the proposals based on mandatory submittal requirements and minimum qualifications, technical review, cost, references, financial stability, and oral presentations from the top three vendors. CSI was the highest ranked proposer and the evaluation committee recommends that that contract be awarded to CSI. The fee charged by CSI to redact historic documents is higher than that proposed by one other vendor, Extract Systems, LLC. CSI, however, scored very well during the oral presentation by providing clear and distinct answers regarding critical technical aspects of this service such as document security measures, handling documents with challenges such as handwritten numbers and reversed polarity, and quality control. CSI provides four confidence levels in quality control and manually checks all redacted documents. They provided a well thought out plan for emergencies, and demonstrated the company’s customer service philosophy as their highest priority. As a result, CSI received the top overall score. In addition, CSI had the strongest financial stability of all proposers, and provided references demonstrating its project experience with other agencies having similar volume and time constraints for historic redaction (back files) as the county’s project.
Under the recommended contract, CSI will not charge the county for redaction of current filings of  up to 2.5 million pages per year for the initial term of the contract, which is anticipated to be sufficient to address the volume of recorded documents containing social security numbers, which is currently estimated at 2.0 million pages per year. In the event the daily redaction volume  exceeds 2.5 million pages per year, or if the one-year options are exercised at the end of the contract’s initial three year term, the cost per page will be $0.012. This rate was the lowest among all the proposers.”
Unexplained in Draeger’s report/recommendation was why his December 2013 glowing recommendation of PFA, including its ability to provide redaction services, was no longer operative. When pointed questions relating to that change were raised by the public at this week’s board meeting, Draeger did not provide a substantive response.
“We put our request for proposals for vendor response,” Draeger said. “We had a competitive process. The Florida company was the low bidder and best performer,” he said.

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