Contracts FAQ 6

May a municipality that has announced and initially followed competitive bidding procedures for a contract not involving public construction abandon the process and negotiate a contract with one who is not the low bidder?

Apparently not. In Waste Management v. Wisconsin Solid Waste Recycling Authority, 84 Wis.2d 462, 267 N.W.2d 659 (1978), the Wisconsin Supreme Court explicitly rejected an interpretation of an earlier case, Menzl v. City of Milwaukee, 32 Wis.2d 266, 145 N.W.2d 198 (1966), which would have allowed a governmental agency to abandon the procedure it had announced it would use to award a contract and instead use a completely different method for awarding the contract. The Waste Management Court declared that “basic concepts of fair administrative procedure” require that governmental entities award contracts in accordance with the rules and procedures they set forth. So, once a municipality has determined to competitively bid a non-construction contract it must scrupulously observe the procedures it has established and cannot abandon the process by contracting with someone who is not the lowest responsible bidder.