A $60,000 contract tentatively awarded to Ski Utah will be re-evaluated because of "the appearance of potential bias" on the part of Utah's tourism director, the state's chief procurement officer has decided.
The eight-page decision was issued Tuesday in response to a protest filed by an advertising agency that also sought the contract to publish the winter travel planner the state sends out to would-be visitors.Winborg & Winborg Advertising Inc. said that Jay Woolley, director of the state Division of Travel Development, had a conflict of interest in serving on the three-member evaluation panel that selected Ski Utah.
Woolley sits on the marketing committee of Ski Utah and is also a non-voting member of the board of directors of the Utah Ski Association. Ski Utah is a subsidiary of the association.
During the hearing held last month on the protest, Woolley said that he is required by law to maintain a relationship with the ski industry organization as the head of tourism for the state.
In his decision, Chief Procurement Officer Doug Richins called the issue "vexing" and said "there may be a conflict between the ethics statute and the travel council statute."
He said it was not his role to determine whether the ethics statute was violated, but he offered some advice: "Mr. Woolley should seek legal counsel to evaluate the appropriateness of service on these association boards."
Richins' decision concludes that "because of the appearance of a potential bias on the part of Mr. Woolley, the procurement process would be best served by isolating him from the evaluation process."
Woolley, who is vacationing in California this week, was not available for comment.
Richins said a new three-member panel will be selected after the five days that the parties involved have to appeal his decision. He said the re-evaluation should be completed by mid-April.
Ski Utah, meanwhile, has already started putting together its annual winter travel planner, according to the organization's marketing director, Raelene Davis.
Davis said 375,000 copies of the planner will be printed for distribution by Ski Utah regardless of whether the organization gets the contract to publish 125,000 copies for the state.
Ski Utah has been publishing a winter travel planner for years and has always been the source of what the state considers its official "response piece" for its winter tourism campaign.
Davis said if Ski Utah does not get the contract after the proposals are re-evaluated, the organization will file a protest of its own. "Obviously, we think we have the best product," she said.
Jim Winborg, president of Winborg & Winborg, declined to comment on the decision to re-evaluate the proposals. The third company that submitted a proposal, Morrison Printing of Tennessee, did not participate in the protest.