mus-chairs-costThe recently concluded fiasco at city council that has been dubbed “musical chairs” resulted in much online commentary about the cost to move equipment from one spot on the dais to another. The local news media reported a cost, which was attributed to Ann Morgan Lilly, in the neighborhood of $7,000. The purported cost and commentary made me wonder what it actually entailed. Therefore, I submitted an open records request for more information.

The open records request that I submitted on October 20, 2014 asked for copies of proposals “in any form whether email correspondence, written bids and or proposals and/or informal requests for proposals” to add equipment at the end of the dais, where Ann Morgan Lilly had been sitting while Cortney Niland occupied her seat.

On Monday, I received the city’s response.

The city provided fours documents that were comprised of three originals with subsequent copies being sent back and forth. From the documents, I was able to deduce the following.

It appears that a request to move the equipment on the dais was requested in August. The documents that were provided to me included an email from Jim Carlisle (side note: not sure, if he is related to Cortney Niland) of Checkpoint Services on August 19, 2014. Carlisle was submitting his company’s bid for the equipment installation. Because of the date of the email, it appears that a request for an estimate was generated sometime in August.

However, the bid was not forwarded to Irma Lopez at the city by Eli Nevarez, whom I believe works at the city’s information technology department, until October 16, 2014. It appears that almost a month transpired between the initiation of discussions to relocate equipment on the dais and when it was escalated within the city. I can only speculate at this point, as to why the issue was escalated, however, the timeline seems to fit the public scrutiny of the musical chairs fiasco and the subsequent acceptance by Cortney Niland that she would resume her seat at the dais.

Additionally, the two estimates, one to purchase a new computer and another to program, activate microphones, and touch panels are dated August 15 and August 19. The total for setting up a station for Ann Morgan Lilly was $6,942.97, according to the estimates provided to me.

The first estimate was from HPS Audio and Video, LLC. It quoted an “Emergency Service Call” to “Program / Activate 2 touchpanel [sic], Rearrange Look & feel Mayor’s/Tech Panels”. The estimate included “For new configuration Activate 2 microphones & Readjust Room Acoustics”. The estimate also mentions replacing two monitor lifters to match the current ones in use at the dais. The price quoted for this service was $3,300. HPS’ estimate also included two devices labelled “Nexus 21 Item Ver- Cb 1.3” for a total price of $2,175.00. The Nexus device is the pop-up lifters that conceal the monitors when not in use at the dais.

This estimate includes a note stating that “in order to do this service on 08/22/2014” the city may be required to pay an additional shipping fee. Apparently, the original request was for installing the equipment by August 22, 2014.

The second estimate was from Checkpoint Services. It was dated August 19, 2014. This estimate quoted a computer for $1,203.16 plus a monitor for $179.39 and wireless keyboard and mouse for an additional $85.42. The total was for $1,467.97.

As you can tell by the estimates, it takes a little more to setup an additional station on the dais then simply moving equipment from one station to another. As to the question about just moving Niland’s existing computer and equipment to the other side of the dais the answer seems to rest on the accessibility of the wiring for the equipment and the lifters used to hide the monitors when not in use.

Other than the issue of the cost that the taxpayer would have had to pay, the other thing that should concern everyone is that although the amount may seem insignificant when compared to the overall city budget; it appears that the city was ready to spend almost $7,000 based on just one bid alone.

Apparently, the city didn’t want to be bothered with asking other vendors for estimates in order to get the best value for the city, after all its not their wallet they were using, it was yours.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

18 replies on “Price Quotations to Move Equipment on Dais”

  1. Seriously Martin?

    “Note sure if he is related to Cortney Niland”?

    That’s despicable. If there is an issue with nepotism or giving work to family members then report it as an ethics violation and report on that. Comments like that “side note” are exactly why no one takes you seriously as a news source. Some of us may find your writing and commentary interesting (I often agree with you about larger social or national issues and disagree with your interpretation of local issues) but seriously why even go there in this case?

    We know you will report ethics issues that you truly feel are a problem so just relegating a comment like that to a side note is a pathetic attempt to attack someone with innuendo instead of facts. Do your homework and find a connection (if one exists) and talk about it then. Otherwise you make comments like that only to hurt your own credibility.

    As to the main point of your argument, as anyone who has any experience with the city knows, going from August to October is completely normal for a lot of things in the city.

    I would have liked to see the result of your ORR so that I could draw my own conclusions on what it meant, but I guess that’s not terribly convenient if you want to just tell us what it means.

    My suspicion is that this was brought up when it originally was because Lilly had enough of Limon’s antics and no one expected Niland to move back (ie the other reps weren’t suggesting that someone just sit next to Limon). It seems like someone finally worked out a deal and that’s great, but I doubt you or I know what actually transpired in council and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. Throwing out random quasi accusations like you did at the start of this post is the sign of a true hack.

  2. Did you not want to find out if HPS has an “on call” contract with the city that would make them the only bidder for projects under a certain dollar amount? Seems like the logical thing to do, right?

    Do you seriously think the city will put every single item, no matter what cost, out for bid? Just holding a bid opening could cost the city $10,000 in time alone.

    Once again, you attempt to slander people because you don’t understand how local government works.

    You might want to ORR on whether or not a PO was issued…

  3. You obviously do not know anything about this type of service, Martin. I suspect that HPS is a “sole source” vendor. In other words, they are the only ones in town that work on that type of system. After all, how big of a market is there for this type of equipment/system? Also, the city, like many other educational and government agencies, probably uses many Region 19 vendors, etc. that are pre-approved on pricing.

    A quick search on the city’s website proves my point ( This document references a DIR contract with Checkpoint Services. A quick Google search on DIR contract shows it is a government agency (Department of Information Resources).

    On that note, I do not care what you or David K write. The fact is Niland AND Limon have acted unprofessionally. Lilly was just stupid and got caught in the middle. Leeser should never have allowed Niland to move the first time. If she had been smart, she would have recorded Limon’s comments (if there were indeed comments being made) and then used the recording to have Limon reprimanded or removed from the meeting. Limon admitted to touching Niland but denies it was in the manner in which Niland states. It doesn’t matter. Of all people, she should remember what we learn in Kindergarten – keep your hands and your feet to yourself.

    I am sick of hearing about this nonsense. All three women (Lilly made herself look bad with all of her complaining) need to grow up and behave in a professional manner. There is Limon’s side and there is Niland/Lilly’s side and the truth is in the middle, I think.

  4. Guy!! This is how you end your piece?

    “Apparently, the city didn’t want to be bothered with asking other vendors for estimates”

    Did you forget that you wrote this 4 paragraphs before….???

    “The second estimate was from Checkpoint Services. It was dated August 19, 2014.”

    What is wrong with you…??

    The title of your piece is even “Price Quotations”…..which is pluralized meaning you know they got more than 1 bid

    You also fail to link the documents probably because Jim Carlysle probably spells his name different than Niland.

    You are one pathetic loser….

    1. “Guy!!”, you might want to stop and take a deep breath to give you an opportunity to read for comprehension. I wrote that there were two estimates, one from Checkpoint Systems for the computer and another one from HPS for the touchpad and lifters. That means there is one estimate for each item needed to complete the move.

      In regards to the spelling of the name I took it directly from the email sent by Jim Carlisle from Checkpoint to the city.

      Image of original email:

      Truth be told, the note that seems to have everyone up in arms inadvertently made into my post because I forget to delete it. It was originally a reminder note for me to research. However, it seems it must have hit a nerve with some of you making me wonder why is that. This post was simply sharing with you what I got back from my open records requests. However the 32 emails, so far today, and these comments has me wondering why everyone seems to be so worried about it.

      Thank you for your comments, even though you think I’m a “pathetic loser” I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog posts,

      1. Martin,

        Since it seems to escape you, the reason that your side note got so much attention is because you claim that you aren’t writing attack pieces against Niland. You’ve been very clear in this blog that, in your mind, you are reporting the facts and helping people “connect the dots” as it were.

        So when you accidentally leave something that looks like such a blatant attempt to smear Niland with the insinuation that somehow she is funneling work to a relative of hers (when she wouldn’t have been the person who requested an estimate or who had any actual say in who was awarded this sort of work) that looks like you are lying when you say that you aren’t setting out to attack her from the outset.

        I’m willing to believe that you made an honest mistake and left a note to yourself in the post, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still looks like you are really looking for dirt on Niland and that tends to color your posts against her as smear or attack pieces. Just going back through your past posts, you have really pushed hard to make Niland look bad. Far more than you’ve tried for any other council member when it could be argued that a LOT of them have done things that are at least as egregious as she has. I’ve personally seen Limon be an unprofessional bitch to someone that she’s disagreed with. I know of at least half a dozen things that Holguin did when he was in office that certainly look inappropriate (like helping get a nice little park built directly next to/behind his house). Robinson routinely doesn’t seem to know what’s going on at council and (in my opinion) he looks 10x worse than Niland, Lilly, or Limon for it since one can overlook personal squabbles a lot more readily than apparent incompetence and I would imagine business owners would probably feel the same.

        In short, I don’t think that Niland is a saint or even a good rep, but she’s certainly not so horrible as to warrant that level of exclusive coverage. You say that you’re not trying to attack her, but that one little note really really undermines you because at first pass it looks like such a blatant attack and even if it was a mistake, it still gives us some insight into how you write your posts and it still looks like you are out to get Niland.

  5. I am also beginning to wonder why everyone seems to be worried about this article. It seems to me like someone is afraid something might come out.

  6. Martin,

    You might want to clarify whether or not there were multiple bids or just one bid and which one the city accepted.

    I think people are commenting because you insinuate that Niland’s family member is getting work when that person is not related to Niland. That’s pretty much slander in the purest form.

    If you delete that part, then you’re probably okay – it was a weird way of going about getting a price to do a simple project. I think we all agree the price is at the least fishy and at most criminal. However, it has nothing to do with Limon or Niland – it’s a problem with staff.

  7. Martin,
    You may want to take some English classes at Pensacola Community College. You end this piece by saying the city only got 1 bid. In the middle of the piece you clearly show two bidders. The title of your piece is pluralized implying more than one. So again…start with what called a “captivating title” , then formulate your “thesis”… 3 or 4 paragraphs that bolster your thesis and then wrap up your piece with a “conclusion” that bolsters the “title” of your “piece”…. I’d also recommend that you post links to the documents in question so we can all try and follow what your real agenda may be. Hiding links and then photoshopping (which you are good at) photoshopping people’s incorect spelling of names into an into an image just further reduces the little credibility you think you have. If you really had 32 emails why do only 5 people take your surveys?

  8. ***english grammar corrrections needed……

    “….to give yourself”…. Not “to give you”

    “……because I forgot to delete it”…..Not “because I forget to delete it.”

    “…….making me wonder why that is.” Not “making me wonder why is that.”

    It’s “However, “…. However is always followed by a comma

    “and all of these comments have me wondering why”……Not “and these comments has me wondering why”

    These are just the corrections needed under the comment where you addressed me. You’re (you see that apostrophe….it’s there for a reason) You’re welcome in response to your Thank you for reading your “blog posts”…….hmmm you may be asking yourself…..should I have put an apostrophe there or not???

    1. “Guy!!”, you obviously do not have an interest in commenting on the merits of what I wrote but rather you would rather act as the grammar police. This is my blog. You are welcome to comment on the topic I choose to write about but I will not tolerate you appointing yourself the grammar police of my blog. I am leaving this comment up but any further grammar policing from you will result in me deleting your comments. If you choose to continue to participate you will abide by my rules.

  9. Mr. K, I beg your pardon, but it is Niland’s and Lilly’s fault about the costs of this matter, and it is the problems with the staff. Council, especially the tax and spenders and major debt creators like Niland, Noe, and Lilly continue to disregard the public’s demands and needs and push their spending agendas and give tax abatements to their special project companies through public/private partnerships. From what I know, when Niland moved and Lilly took the spot of Niland, it was a simple move to switch. When both wanted to move to a different position on the dais, then major costs were needed. Niland and Lilly have arrogantly shown to push their agendas and special projects with no regard to how much it costs. Niland and Lilly were caught displaying their unprofessional manner and willing to allow nearly $7000.00 to accomodate their condescending behavior toward the public and Limon. By the way, Limon can say whatever she wants, I believe, since there seems to be no refrain by Lilly and Niland opening their caustic mouths.

    1. Mr. R,

      Where is Limon in all this? Why is it that so many of the folks who are so against Niland and Lilly completely ignore the brown elephant in the council chambers? I’ve met Limon and I’ve listened to her talk to people and she is a conceited, manipulative bully. I don’t know exactly what she did to contribute to this whole musical chairs drama, but I know that the two long standing city council members are NOT solely at fault in this situation. Ignoring the third person in this mess when you are accusing Niland and Lilly of being unprofessional is dishonest and deceitful.

      Keep in mind I DON’T actually like Niland or Lilly either, but saying that Limon can say whatever she wants because Niland and Lilly won’t RESTRAIN their caustic mouths is stupid. If we expect one city council member to behave with professional decorum then ALL city council members should behave that way. Giving her a pass because someone else is behaving poorly isn’t even tolerated in grade school and Limon should know that since she’s SO educated and she was an “educator” for so many years. She’s the last person who should be acting like a child and yet she seems to delight in finding ways to build herself up while knocking other people down. Quite the role model that one.

  10. Drakovic,

    Limon wasn’t the one who made a show about moving around the dais. Lilly falls asleep and Niland is offensive many times. Limon may have a dominating or intimidating character….so what. Everyone must get along, but the main goal is to act in accordance what the taxpayers of the city need and not desire. This City CONcil does not act in favor of the taxpayers, nor have any ambition to, since it is written in the charter. It’s not stupid to say that Limon should be able to say what she wants, but it would be stupid for her to just be a bobble head and tax and spend the city into bankruptcy. I’m not petty like many in El Paso who pay attention to the looks or how one looks in front others. I care about my liberty, and I care about a government being honest to its constituents. I also care about a city that takes money and spends it on its desires and not the needs of the public.

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