Yesterday, The Apopka Voice published an article stating that the City of Apopka had spent more than $200,000 for the Old Florida Outdoor Festival while ignoring its own purchasing policies.
The article was published at 4:45 PM, 17 hours after Robert Sargent (Public Information Officer for the City of Apopka) had agreed to find the answer to two questions:
“Were any of the seven 2016 Old Florida Outdoor Festival purchases exempt from the City’s Procurement Policy?
If yes, why?”
The Apopka Voice was attempting to learn if the following Old Florida Outdoor Festival purchases were exempt from the competitive bidding and City Council approval requirements of the City's Procurement Policy.
Tent and Table Rental: $29,915
Sound and Lighting Services: $44,999
Musical Talent: $99,300
Orlando Fun Crew: $5,000
Innovative Party Rentals: $5,750
Cox Events Group: $12,000
Dock Dogs: $8,500
At the end of the business day on Monday, The Apopka Voice decided to publish the article without a response from The City of Apopka.
The City of Apopka responded to the article through an email by Sargent at 10:38 AM today. Here is his response:
"Last year the Apopka City Council held several public meetings to discuss and approve the 2015‐16 municipal
operating budget that included the recent Old Florida Outdoor Festival. Expenditures for the event are part of an
extensive budget report that was provided to the public.
Minutes of these meetings are available as public record and included in the city’s website. Specifically, minutes
from a public budget meeting on July 20, 2015, document City Council review and discussion of Apopka’s Community Outreach budget and the Old Florida Outdoor Festival.
Minutes from public meetings on Sept. 9 and 23 of 2015 report final public comments, news media attendance and City Council approval of Apopka’s current operating budget of $89.7 million that includes expenses for the Old Florida Outdoor Festival.
Minutes from these meetings are available to the public on the city website and copies are attached to this
correspondence for your review.
Line item Nos. 3401, 4801 and 4401 of the city budget include $100,000 for concert performers, $45,000 for
sound and lighting, $30,000 for tents, $12,000 for kids activities and various other expenses. The approval of these budget items are in accordance with section 121.1.1 of Apopka’s administrative policies that outline the city’s mandatory budget process and includes designation of expenses and authorization for transfer of appropriated funds.
Approval from the City Council also is required in section 220.127.116.11 of Apopka’s procurement policies. These
policies detail spending authority of city administration, requirements for purchase orders and exceptions where
products and services are available from only one vendor. Policies also allow the city to make purchases without
competitive prices when it is determined to be an evaluated source and in the best interest of the city.
The City of Apopka fully understands and respects its fiscal responsibility as a good steward of public money.
That is why last year the city administration implemented Apopka’s most comprehensive preparation, City Council review and public discussion of the city budget. Further, the City of Apopka adheres to its budget and purchasing requirements.
I believe that your online statement that the “Old Florida Outdoor Festival Purchases Ignored City Rules” is
misleading and without support from adequate research. Several other statements erroneously depict accountability of city purchases based on your interpretation of city policies regardless of information that is readily provided by the city as a matter of public record and in accordance with government budgeting procedures.
You further state that you reviewed minutes of City Council meetings and found no approval of any purchase
relating to the Old Florida Outdoor Festival. Attached are minutes of three public budget meetings that are posted on the city’s website."
Sargent's email went on to explain the City's reasoning for the delay in response, and to call for a retraction of the article.
"Finally, you stated that I had not responded to your request for information from Sunday night. I e‐mailed you a response asking for clarification of your question, and then I sent you affirmation at 9:31 p.m. Sunday that I would check with city staff to look into it.
By late Monday afternoon – not even a full business day – you issued your statements about the Old Florida
Outdoor Festival without giving me reasonable opportunity to complete my research of your request and to compose a response amid my other required work responsibilities.
I believe that much of your online statements are false and misleading. You deprived the city adequate
opportunity to present the accurate facts about the budgeted expenditures while asking me only two questions in an email late Sunday that had little to do with your online statements.
I feel that this correspondence provides substantial proof of approved expenditures for the Old Florida Outdoor
Festival. I respectfully request that you retract your online statements."
A PDF of Sargent's email can be found here.
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