NORTH ADAMS -- A local real estate developer has filed a complaint with the state Inspector General's office alleging favoritism and improprieties in the award of the lease for the North Adams Public School's new administrative office space to North Adams Futures Inc.
David Moresi, of Moresi and Associates, one of four entities to submit lease proposals for the administrative office space in April, filed a complaint with the state Inspector General's office on July 8, alleging that "small town politics and friendships, as well as self-interests have seriously interfered with the awarding of this bid and it has undoubtedly been handled inappropriately and illegally."
He also requested the state conduct a full investigation into the matter, as a way to prevent similar improprieties from happening in the future.
According to the Inspector General's website, the office will launch an investigation if a complaint is made and can serve as an arbitrator, but any recommendations it makes are non-binding. The website also states that bidders can also pursue their complaints in court, should a resolution not be to their liking.
"I'm just disgusted and I feel [the award] wasn't fair. I'm not the only party that's upset," Moresi said during a telephone interview Tuesday. "At this point, [the Inspector General's office] has encouraged me to seek alternative means outside their opinion. They've given me some guidance, but I've chosen not to seek that route. Quite honestly, what do I have to gain. North Adams has enough problems right now. "
The complaint alleges the city's Request for Proposals (RFP) for a three-year lease for administrative office space in close proximity to the Conte School property, was improperly administered from the beginning. Among the complaints are questions surrounding the RFP being written by the school department's business manager Nancy Ziter, instead of the city's Chief Procurement Officer, Laura Wood; issues with how the proposals were rated by individual panel members and the allegations that Superintendent James Mont epare entered secret negotiations with David Carver, principal of North Adams Futures Inc., before the proposals were reviewed by the panel.
" When the city solicited for the office space I decided to take a shot at it," Moresi said. "I'm very upset, very disgusted and very discouraged by this. Aside from the superintendent, not one of the committee members came to look at my property. If there was a better location, so be it, but at least go through the motions. If you're evaluating a property, at least take a look at it."
Montepare denied the allegations during a telephone interview on Tuesday, stating that Moresi's proposed site was not an exact fit with the space the district was seeking and the decision was not made without several levels of approval.
"This was probably the most transparent process we've had," he said. "I explained to David [Moresi] on several occasions that after the space was ranked by the review panel, I was able to enter negotiations for the lease. We've also explained that I had seen the property and so had Matt Neville, our facilities director, who was part of the review panel. The rest of the panel felt it had sufficient information -- blue prints and photographs of his site -- and that they were familiar with his property."
Montepare added, "We were looking for an open space that would allow us to know who is in the office and who isn't. I need three conference rooms. The space [on Union Street] was made up of mini-offices and would have shared a conference room with another tenant."
In addition, he said Moresi's proposal put the three-year lease at $106,000 during the first year, and incrementally higher during the second and third years. The district's costs to operate its two offices, at Conte and the Educational Center on West Main Street, are about $116,000 a year.
"We ended up with a 9,000-square-foot office, with no rent until November, adequate storage space and $35,000 worth of additional build outs, furniture and carpeting," Montepare said. "During the first year of the lease, we're paying $46,000. We've chosen a space that is the best fit for our needs."
He said that an architect toured the property at 37 Main St., during the lease negotiations and that bid procurements for the school district fall under Ziter's job description. Ziter is also a certified procurement officer.
Carver, who submitted a proposal for space above Berkshire Bank, at 37 Main St., was notified of the award on June 18. Prior to the notification, the review panel met and ranked three of the four proposed sites. The decision was later unanimously recommended by the School Committee's finance subcommittee on May 29 and approved by the School Committee on June 4.