Westonka’s Choice of Financial Advisor

Lately there’s been some noise being made about the district’s choice for its financial advisory company.  The district is working with Ehlers & Associates to administer the building maintenance bonds that were approved in November’s election.  Ehlers is consistently ranked as one of the top financial advisory firms in the nation.

A few folks are insisting that the district should be seeking bids from other financial advisors for the bond work.

One individual even went so far as to request that the Office of the State Auditor review whether the district was acting improperly in this matter. So staff time and resources had to be diverted away from the many issues at hand in order to comply with this requested audit.

But the Office of the State Auditor determined that our district is in fact acting properly, as shown in this excerpt from the auditor’s report dated January 19, 2012:

“The District’s contract with Ehlers is a professional services contract that does not need to be competitively bid.”

Here’s more from the auditor’s report:
“Minnesota law recognizes that, given the nature of professional services, seeking the lowest priced responsible bidder may not always be the best decision for a public entity.  Instead, qualified interested professionals may be allowed the opportunity to obtain public contracts through a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) process.

“Prior to 2009, the District used Ehlers as its financial advisor.  In 2009, the District used the RFP process to review its contract with Ehlers.  The District obtained proposals dated August 27, 2009, from three public financial advisors:  Northland Securities, Springsted, and Ehlers.  Based upon the proposals received and interviews of the three public financial advisors, the District decided to remain with Ehlers.

“It is our understanding that the District consulted with Ehlers in 2010 in preparation for the referenda submitted to and approved by the voters in 2011.  At its January 9, 2012, meeting the School Board unanimously voted to authorize Ehlers to solicit proposals for the general obligation bond sales and to open, read, and tabulate the proposals received for presentation to the School Board.

“It appears the District complied with Minnesota law when it retained Ehlers as its financial advisor for the referenda submitted to and approved by the voters in 2011.  In addition, the District engaged in a periodic review of its financial services advisor, as recommended by this Office, when it used the RFP process in 2009.  As a result, the Office of the State Auditor will not be taking further action on this matter.”

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