City signs contract with chamber of commerce

September 28, 2018

City officials appear to have settled the case of a $20,000 contract to manage a business networking initiative known as MIX Santa Fe, which had been held by a heavily scrutinized Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives.

At least one city councilor had raised questions about the propriety of transferring the contract from the candidate, Andrea Romero, to the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce at Romero’s request.

“I hate to say it, but I think this is a political move, and I don’t like it,” Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler said last month.

The transfer was never made official, and Romero’s contract expired June 30, said Matt Brown, the city’s economic development director.

Late last week, the city signed a new contract with the chamber to manage MIX through June, Brown said.

While Romero is not involved in the new contract, he said, the chamber could subcontract MIX services to a third-party consultant.

If the chamber did engage a subcontractor, it would have to submit documentation of that to the city, and the record would be publicly available under the state’s open-records law.

“If [the chamber wants] to be reimbursed for work by third-party vendors, they have to submit receipts to us,” Brown said. “So there was a misnomer that somehow the chamber was going to shield people from the transparency in how our money is being used. That’s not true.”

Supporters have said they want to transition MIX from a program to its own nonprofit organization.

Brown said the city would issue a request for proposals for management services for the next fiscal year, beginning in July, in advance of budget negotiations in the spring. He said he couldn’t yet say for certain how much the contract would offer.

“It is the best service the city provides for business people to network together,” he said, referring to MIX. “And that builds social capital.”

Vigil Coppler was still not satisfied Wednesday. She said she had expected a more “full review” of the contract transfer and had been under the impression the matter would come before the city Finance Committee before a new contract was signed by City Manager Erik Litzenberg — who has the authority to sign contracts valued at less than $60,000. She said she felt the City Council had been “circumvented.”

“I think this sets a bad precedent,” she said.

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