Contracts FAQ 13

May a municipality accept a bid submitted after the time bids were due?

Municipalities have discretion under certain limited circumstances to accept a late bid after all the timely bids have been opened. Power Systems Analysis, Inc. v. City of Bloomer, 197 Wis.2d 817, 541 N.W.2d 214 (Ct. App. 1996). The court of appeals stated in the Bloomer case that while Wis. Stat. sec. 62.15 does not expressly authorize cities to accept a late bid, it does not preclude a city from doing so. The court cited prior court decisions recognizing that cities have a certain amount of discretion which they can exercise under 62.15. Noting that statutory bidding requirements are designed to prevent fraud, favoritism and improvidence in the administration of public business, as well as to ensure that the public receives the best work or supplies at the most reasonable price practicable, the court concluded that recognizing the City's discretion to accept late bids would further the City's ability to deal with problems in a sensible, practical way and enable the city to attain the statutory goals behind sec. 62.15.

One member of the court suggested in a concurring opinion that the court's opinion should make it clear that a city can ignore its own bidding rules only when the noncompliance with the rule is not material and does not jeopardize the integrity of the bidding process. However, the majority opinion does not specify the legal standard by which a court should review a city's exercise of discretion.