On June 23, Glendale City Council pulled the plug on approval for Credit Management/Christmas Light Decorators as the holiday lights vendor until August after potential discrepancies in the application process were noted.
After council refused to award the contract, city staff scheduled a “special meeting” for 1 p.m. Thursday, July 9. The lone agenda item at the special meeting: “A request for the city council to authorize the city manager to enter into a professional services agreement with Credit Management Group, LLC (doing business as Christmas Light Decorators) for the Downtown Holiday Light Display.”
In 2015, the council approved a one-year agreement with Christmas Light Decorators for $158,000, with an option to renew annually an additional four years. This contract was amended in 2017 to increase the contract in an amount not to exceed $210,000 annually.
A new contract would raise the amount to $250,000 per year for up to five years.
At the June 23 meeting, Chad Shimek, owner of Custom Holiday Lights in Scottsdale, protested the city giving the renewal.
Shimek applied to be Glendale’s vendor for this year’s light display but lost out to Christmas Light Decorators.
“A couple of things that we think are very flawed in the system,” he said.
Aubree Denekamp, one of Shimek’s employees, explained that the company requested their scores after not receiving the bid in order to “better themselves.”
She said Custom Holiday Lights found possible discrepancies and biases within the process as they provided a list of references but not one of them were called.
Shimek said, “We wondered why we even got any points, because there was no feedback from any of our references.”
Also, Denekamp claimed at least two of the people scoring had relationships with Credit Management/Christmas Lights Decorators.
“We just thought that this bid process is incomplete or the judging is incomplete,” Shimek said.
After the comments, some council members were no longer ready to approve the vendor on the agenda.
“I find it incredibly troubling what you’re telling us,” Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff said.
Council members Jamie Aldama and Joyce Clark expressed similar feelings.
Clark said, “It had been my intent to move this forward, but in light of the rather disturbing information we’ve received, instead of a motion for approval I am making a motion to table.”
Lisette Camacho, Glendale’s Budget and Finance director, was in charge of the bid process for the project. She said Custom Holiday Lights had already protested the final decision due to the scoring of the references and it went through the city’s appeal process—but the bid decision stands.
“The RFP did not state that the references would be called,” Camacho said.
She explained that Christmas Lights Decorators provided photographs and other materials, which were used as references to land the project.
Clark did not feel like photographs were enough evidence of a company’s good work.
“Without talking to people who had used these companies previously and relying only upon photographs does not seem to be appropriate to me,” she said. “When I think of references and submitting references, it’s because I assume those references are going to be called.”
As for the biased voting members, Camacho said this was the first time it was being brought to her attention.
City Manager Kevin Phelps explained that the relationship between the voting members and the chosen vendor is due to the vendor having worked with the city of Glendale for the past 19 years.
No matter the relationship, many of the council members still wanted to table the item, but Mayor Jerry Weiers expressed concerns.
“I know that they have to order materials, and so I don’t know if that’s going to screw things up or not,” Weiers said.
Phelps said it would cut the process a little close, but that did not change anyone’s minds.
Aldama said, “I’m very aware if for the betterment of this city and for our integrity, if it means our holiday lights go up later to do the right thing.”
With that, the council passed the motion to table the item and come back to it in August after investigating the process and possibly rebidding the project.
The current agreement for the Downtown Holiday Light Display expired on June 2.
According to the agenda for the June 23 meeting, “Christmas Light Decorators would provide creative designs, installation of the 1.6 million LED holiday lights, maintenance, removal and storage. These lights would be on display for residents and visitors to enjoy from November through January in Murphy Park and throughout 16 blocks of downtown Glendale and Catlin Court.”