Steve Ehlmann vetoed a bill Wednesday that would spend nearly $2 million for new election machines.
Director of Elections Rich Chrismer in late February. Councilman Joe Cronin, R-District 1, was the only council member to vote against the bid. One of his objections was the absence of competing bids.
“I believe that the director of elections should be given deference in determining the need to replace equipment and which machines to purchase,” Ehlmann said. “However, under the Charter, they are subject to county government regulations when it comes to personnel and purchasing.”
Ehlmann said the issue is not with voting machines or with Chrismer, but with getting one bid for such a large purchase. The contract with Henry Adkins & Son called for $1.2 million in additional spending, after a trade-in credit of $76,176 from the current system.
“Anytime we have $1.2 million in expenditures and only one bid, I’m going to be very suspicious,” Ehlmann told Patch Tuesday.
In his request before the county council, Chrismer said that Henry Adkins & Son was the only company certified to sell the equipment in the state of Missouri. Chrismer could not immediately be reached late Tuesday afternoon.
Ehlmann said county government sometimes is forced to award a contract when only one vendor submits a bid, but those usually are no more than $50,000.
“Confronted with a decision to spend $1.2 million dollars based on a single bid, I did not believe a purchase at this time was in the best interest of County taxpayers,” he said.
In returning the contract to the County Council, he suggested that the bid specifications be amended to encourage more bidders or existing specifications be reissued only after a more competitive market exists in the State of Missouri.
“We’ve heard stories that more vendors are about to be certified by the state,” the county executive said Tuesday.
The electronic voting machines now in use were purchased in 2006 with a $1.5-million federal grant.
This is Ehlmann’s fourth veto five years as county executive.