RCLC executive director Eric Vasquez
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Executive director Eric Vasquez has notified the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board that his employer CPLC (Chicanos Por La Causa) has chosen to withdraw its declaration of its desire to go forward with the RCLC contract at the end of its current two-year contract which ends July 31.
Vasquez made the announcement well into an extensive discussion during Friday’s virtual board meeting under an agenda item concerning the issuance of a request for proposals for the contract.
“It concerns me because we have a few balls in the air as you know that are time sensitive and need to be dealt with and we have done valuable work for the organization and the region. But we are going to be withdrawing any proposal. We are not seeking an RFP. We are winding this down,” Vasquez said. “I understand this puts the agency in a difficult situation right now. I have spoken with my management at CPLC to that end and they were willing to go forward with a shorter term extension of one or two months at the most. At that it would have to be at full rate, we’re not doing it at the 50 percent rate.”
The CPLC contract costs the RCLC some $15,000 a month for executive director services. In April, RCLC treasurer, Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz notified the board that the organization may not be sustainable without the $100,000 the RCLC was receiving annually from a Department of Energy grant. See https://losalamosreporter.com/2020/04/26/regional-coalition-of-lanl-communities-may-not-be-sustainable-without-doe-grant/. In June the board approved a budget for this fiscal year that would only provide 50 percent of the executive director expenses incurred in the last two years.
Also in April, chair Roybal appointed a subcommittee to consider the executive director contract. In mid-June, CPLC submitted a draft proposal to continue the contract with the RCLC although a request for proposals had not yet been issued. That proposal would have added a community outreach and content expert role to the CPLC team. The proposal also indicated that CPLC would have performed an” in-depth and long-term structured of the true economic impact of LANL on member communities”. It also mentioned that CPLC would be partnering with “a regional economic development group”.
At Friday’s meeting, RCLC vice chair Town of Taos Councilor Darien Fernandez said it was the decision of the subcommittee to issue a request for proposals again for the executive director contract. He noted that the subcommittee had approached Roybal about having Santa Fe County issue the RFP.
“There were concerns about Los Alamos County doing it because they are home rule and follow a different procurement process to the state and we wanted to be in compliance with the audit findings and make sure that we are following state procurement policy. This is a rather time sensitive issue because the CPLC contract is up at the end of the month and I think we as a board need to determine soon what we plan to do in the interim,” Fernandez said. Los Alamos County is the fiscal agent for the RCLC and had issued the RFP for the current contract two years ago.
Fernandez said his one concern with going out to RFP is that while the RCLC is in that process the contract expires at the end of the month and there is still work that needs to be done in the interim. He said he supports the vote of the subcommittee but feels the board needs to determine what that means for the continued operation of the organization in the interim.
Izraelevitz said he feels a sense of disappointment that two weeks from the end of the CPLC contract and that under better circumstances, the board might have been able to handle the executive director contract in a more methodical way.
Roybal noted that the CPLC contract expires July 31. He said it would be next to impossible to solicit proposals and evaluate them and select a contractor prior to this contract ending. He said having a lapse in service would be detrimental to the RCLC.
“We have so many moving parts right now going on with the contract coming up, how we make a determination of who does the RFP and things of that nature. I think that it will be a heavy lift for us to try and find a director during the COVID times plus the time with the pandemic going on and get somebody up to speed that can actually do the Zoom meetings and do all the different things that we need,” Roybal said. “I think it’s going to be a heavy lift, and just having that lapse in service.”
He said CPLC had indicated that they have some ideas to move forward with.
“I know that there have been some positive things that have happened over the couple of years that we have gotten done and there’s been some stuff that the board has tried to fix. I know it hasn’t been perfect but I know there’s been a lot of moving parts and I think we have done some positive work on the board so I think me personally, I think this would be too hard and actually detrimental to the organization but those are my thoughts. I think it’s too late now in the game. We have to figure out what the direction is. I feel it would really be better to extend the contract for a year and get started now looking at how we do an RFP going forward instead of trying to do it later,” Roybal said.
Board members discussed at length how to keep the RCLC going while awaiting the outcome of an RFP process. During the discussion, neither Roybal nor Vasquez indicated that CPLC had already decided to withdraw their declaration of intention to seek renewal of their contract. Roybal said Tuesday morning that he received a confidential letter from CPLC July 14 notifying him of their decision.
Roybal did say that one thing that worried him was that the RCLC is on the verge of rectifying the audit findings and once the restitution is made the RCLC will be eligible to apply for the federal grant, it’s main source of revenue. At this point, Vasquez made the announcement about CPLC’s decision.
RCLC secretary Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez asked Vasquez to clarify whether CPLC was interested in pursuing a contract extension of two months and Vasquez confirmed that CPLC would agree to up to two months at the full rate.
“At that time it will be important that the RCLC move forward. As you know in today’s agenda there’s a discussion and possible action so if there’s going to be a move to draft an RFP I suggest you do it today….It concerns me because there are a few items, three in particular, that are time sensitive and I don’t want to see them fall or fail to be carried through but I believe with the proper guidance, we have drafted the letter that we shared with chair Roybal and we are willing to work on transitioning and making sure that those balls don’t get dropped but we are moving on,” Vasquez said.
Sanchez said that at the end of the contract the board would have an exit meeting where data, information, passwords and things like that are transferred as well as all the pertinent information and a list of anything that needs to get done in terms of timelines and deadlines for any future activity.
“Absolutely, pursuant to the terms of the contract, and in the spirit of collaboration and partnership, we are open and plan to provide transitional support and services including making sure that the website is transferred properly and all pertinent information – a complete handover,” Vasquez replied.
Fernandez said his main concern is that there is a smooth transition and that the work that has been done to resolve the issues with the Department of Energy “just doesn’t fall by the wayside so that we can be eligible for those monies again to represent the interest of our communities as it pertains to the Lab”.
“Over the past couple of years we’ve been able to complete several things, gotten our financial house in order, passed additional controls, dug ourselves out of the financial morass that we were in but there are some goals that I am disappointed that we have not yet hit,” Vasquez said. “Those are the passage of the Joint Powers Agreement by all our member communities, and reinstatement of DOE funding through the grant. There’s also the FY2020 audit that needs to go forward very soon. Those three issues need to be dealt with right now plus you need to work on an RFP.”
Vasquez said he didn’t know if two months would be sufficient.
“I think the board really needs to look at these issues and possibly do a division of duties or division of labor on them because there’s a lot of handholding and work that needs to be done on all of these things. I don’t know,” he said.
Board member Santa Fe City Councilor Michael Garcia said the board either has two weeks or two months
“I think it’s imperative that we start thinking now what the future is given that in the instance that we have two months, we’ve got to determine which entity is going to issue the RFP,” he said. He said the process will not be done in two weeks but could take months.
“Even with a contract extension, we’re still going to have a period where we won’t have an executive director in place. We need to start thinking about how we are going to handle the capacity and ensure that the work is followed through whether it is in two weeks or in two months,” Garcia said.
The board set a special meeting for Friday, July 24. An agenda distributed Tuesday indicates that the board will discuss: the contract extension for CPLC, RFP development for a new executive director, the DOE grant application process, the next steps for the amended joint powers agreement and the RCLC website.