Masks bought by City of Birmingham were 'emergency purchase,’ did not require bidding process

Woodfin says city was 'swindled'

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – The company that Mayor Randall Woodfin said “swindled” the City of Birmingham sent a sales pitch through email to the city’s purchasing agent in March.

“We do searches, locally and on the internet. With this particular vendor, I received their email and had the warehouse manager reach out and get pricing,” explained Carmen Jones, Purchasing Agent, City of Birmingham.

For 100,000 N95 masks and exhalation valve and 75,000 surgical masks, the city agreed to pay Metron Marketing and Distribution more than $400,000. State law and city code requires a bidding process for a purchase of this expense, but a city spokesman said this was considered an “emergency purchase.”

According to city code, “When an emergency affecting the public health, safety or convenience shall be declared in writing to exist by the agent, the agent shall report in writing to the council and the mayor the nature of the danger to the public health, safety or convenience which will result from the emergency because of delay occasioned by taking bids as otherwise required by this chapter. Upon the declaration of emergency by the agent, the agent may, with the consent of the mayor or, in the mayor’s absence, the council president, let or extend any contract to meet the emergency without public advertisement; provided that if the contract is for services to be rendered the city, the contract or extension shall not be for a period in excess of seven days, unless the council shall by resolution authorize the agent to extend the same for an additional period. This emergency action undertaken by the agent shall be reported to the council in writing and the report shall be spread upon the minutes of the council at its next regular or called meeting.”

A spokesperson said in this case, the purchasing office reached out to several vendors but was unable to find one who could meet the city’s deadline or budget.

“[Metron Marketing and Distribution] offered one of the lower prices and agreed upon a delivery in early April which would meet our needs. Many vendors communicated with purchasing that they could not agree to a shipment before June,” said the spokesman.

Mayor Randall Woodfin said the company did not hold up its end of the deal and not only sent the wrong masks, but refuses to refund the city’s money.

READ: Mayor Woodfin: Company sent wrong masks, “swindled” the city

Richard Rice, an attorney representing Metron Marketing and Distribution, responded to a WBRC FOX6 email for comment on Tuesday, however it was stuck in our spam folder and not received until Thursday evening.

Rice disagrees with Mayor Woodfin’s statement that the company “swindled” the city.

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