Tacoma City Council members held up a contract this week that would have paid a consulting company more than $300,000 to help the city continue an ongoing effort to become a “high-performing organization.”
Council members voted Tuesday to table the contract with The Orion Partnership, an Issaquah-based firm, because of concerns over the size of the contract and its timing.
If approved, it would have increased the total the city has paid Orion since 2006 to $602,450.
Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg said she had “a little bit of angst” with the proposed contract and wondered if the work the consultants intended to perform could be put off until the economy improves.
“It is a lot of money,” Ladenburg said.
Councilwoman Julie Anderson questioned whether it was time to put the work out to bid, noting that The Orion Partnership has been working with the city for years.
“Cumulatively, we have spent a lot of money,” Anderson said.
Councilman Jake Fey said he had concerns about the scope of work spelled out in the contract, noting that the “deliverables” were listed on just two-thirds of a page.
Council members agreed to table the proposal so officials could better explain the contract to the City Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee.
The topic is scheduled to be discussed at the committee’s Wednesday meeting, said Mary Morrison, a management analyst in the city manager’s office.
Delaying the contract vote “slows down or brings to a stop” some of the things that officials had planned to accomplish with the consultant’s help, Morrison said. However, some pieces could go forward as planned as part of a smaller, limited contract, she said.
George Orr III and Kathleen Ryan, the Orion consultants, have helped city officials design and facilitate meetings with large and small groups that are aimed at making city government more efficient.
For example, they helped city officials organize the huge two-day meeting of city employees that led to the Safe and Clean initiative, a program aimed at cutting crime in half in 14 months and generally sprucing up the city.
City officials cannot pull off such large-scale events without outside help, Morrison said.
“We do not have the capacity within the organization to design and facilitate a meeting of 200-300 employees,” she said.
The proposed contract would pay The Orion Partnership $306,000 for work through March 2011. It would include designing and facilitating more leadership meetings, team development, recommendations for increasing leadership skills and design of an evaluation process for measuring progress in creating a “consistently high-performance organization.”
Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542