What’s Going on with the Farmers Market?
• The Sammamish Chamber of Commerce (SCC) has run the Farmers Market from 2008 to 2020.
• SCC satisfied all contracts from 2008-2018 and the city paid SCC its independent contractor fee.
• In 2019 the City changed the contract they had routinely used.
• 2019 financial reports were turned in which accounted for the $10,000 city independent contractor
•The city has asked SCC more financial documents and propriety information beyond the scope of the
$10,000 fee. SCC attorney said the city did not have a legal basis to demand additional chamber
•Most Sammamish citizens love the Sammamish Farmers Market, so the real question before us is,
has the city and its residents received commensurate value for the $10,000 amount paid
IT’S TIME TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT!
Why now, after all these years, have the rules changed dramatically for the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce (SCC) to operate the Sammamish Farmers Market at the Commons? For twelve years, SCC has worked in a fair manner with the city. SCC was not an agent for, or employee of, the city. SCC, as an independent contractor, created, built, and has run the successful Sammamish Farmers Markets. SCC has been the only organization that has run the Sammamish Farmers Market.
The city posted a Request for Proposals (RFP) on April 9th for managing and conducting a Farmers Market at the Sammamish Commons in 2021. RFP proposals were due on or before April 30th, 2021. SCC was the only proposal submitted during this 21-day RFP period.
The Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, who owns the Sammamish Farmers Market brand*, has efficiently and successfully run popular farmers markets from 2008 through 2020. (*Note: SCC built the Sammamish Farmers Market from the ground up over the last twelve years through entrepreneurial risks, civic caring, volunteers, efficient operations, and determination.)
Per the RFP, the city described the Sammamish Chamber’s Sammamish Farmers Market perfectly as follows: “The Farmers Market has grown to be a hub for residents who wish to purchase fresh, locally grown produce, baked goods, organic foods, hand-made goods and other ‘green’ sustained products. It has also grown to be a great venue for community gathering and picnicking.”
The city council meeting agenda for May 18th, 2021 initially did not have the Farmers Market RFP on it. On Monday May 17th, 2021 the city published a revised agenda, that included an agenda item discussing the Farmers Market. The city states in Agenda Bill #14, “Ideally the City would have multiple responses to its RFP to select from in order to ensure that the City’s consultant provides the best service for the best value. Here, with only one response to the RFP, the City does not have the ability to ensure the best services for the best value.” (Refer back to the RFP description of the SCC Sammamish Farmer’s Market above.) Is the city’s stance in compliance with the Public bidding law?
As SCC has built the Farmers’ Market that the city loves, how could the city not determine that it would be getting good value after 12 years? How many other contracts has the City entered where only one proposal was received? Was the 2020 impactful $500,000+ Berk EIS contract an only proposal? How about contracts with TSI/Victor Salemann, the most recent in 2021 being for $200,000?
By the beginning of the May 18th council meeting, council had received seventy-seven emails supporting the Chamber of Commerce running the Sammamish Farmers’ Market at the Commons this year.
Managing the Farmers Market costs far more than $10,000 to run. SCC has continuously delivered real value to the city and residents based on how much effort and time are involved. Why does SCC do this? To benefit the community, provide economic opportunity to local farmers and other vendors and to carry out our mission of “connecting businesses with consumers”. SCC is a small organization run by volunteers and one employee, our CEO.
The city is well aware that they are receiving real value for the independent contractor fee of $10,000.
From 2008 until 2019, the process SCC followed for receiving its independent contractor funds was to present a written report twice during the season, to the City of Sammamish Parks Director, with data on market turn out, showing SCC met the agreed upon terms. No expense receipts were ever requested. The Parks department authorized half payment at the completion of each of the two report meetings.
Abruptly, starting 5.26.2020, the city made demands on SCC for our tax returns, complete company P&Ls, a list of our vendors and many proprietary marketing and work items. SCC provided a P&L for the Sammamish Farmers Market for 2018 and 2019 and strongly believed many other items on the city request list were overreach. Per our attorney, “There is caselaw articulating that records of government consultants are not necessarily public records subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act] PRA.” Thus, SCC decided the city’s arbitrary list of documents requested was out of bounds.
At the May 18th city council meeting, the city attorney stated, “We have everything, quite honestly, that we were asking for. We were asking for all chamber records pursuant to a public records request. We didn’t have a legal basis for asking overall for all chamber records.
Per the new 2019 contract, paragraphs 18 and 19, the contractor only needs to provide “work product” prepared by the Consultant with funds paid by the City under this contract”. That means the work or materials accounting up to the $10,000 applicable to the Sammamish Farmers’ Market, not our entire company financials and proprietary work products.
SCC pays our CEO a salary. From January to October each year, hours are spent recruiting and scheduling vendors and volunteers, setting up marketing, advertising, and operations, and filing reports to entities like the King County Health Department. Our CEO is physically present running the market from 1 pm to 9 pm for twenty market days. For accuracy, SCC allocates a percentage of those hours as a Farmers Market Expense.
Has the city asked other contractors to provide their company financials over and above the dollar amount of their contract? Has the city asked other contractors to provide proprietary work and / or materials beyond the scope of the contract services? The city contributes $10,000 or more to at least six other organizations. Are they all being asked for the same documentation that has been demanded from SCC?
Every one of SCC’s past annual contracts with the city was completed satisfactorily and closed. SCC performed and was paid the agreed upon city contribution.
On January 28th, 2020, the city signed a contract for the 2020 Sammamish Farmer’s Market. The city unilaterally cancelled that contract without giving SCC the seven-day written notice required in the contract. SCC only discovered the cancellation during public comment at a city council meeting, even though farmers’ markets were announced as an essential service by Governor Inslee.
After the City cancelled the 2020 Sammamish Farmer’s Market contract without the required written notice, SCC found another site to hold the market in the City. Unfortunately, a city council member pressured the owner of the alternative Sammamish site, who was willing to host the Sammamish Farmer’s Market, to not allow the Sammamish Farmer’s Market on their land. SCC then scrambled to find a site outside Sammamish in order to meet the expectations of our citizens, vendors and local farmers.
At the May 18th, 2021 city council meeting, several council members made unsubstantiated, troubling statements about the SCC, “The financial documents turned in were like a high school accounting class”; “there may be something nefarious”; “there could be possible fraudulent activity”. These public statements were unfair accusations against a local organization like SCC, especially with the proven history and track record between the City and SCC.
Before the May 18th City Council meeting, SCC had reached out to the city council many times requesting a meeting about the farmers market and received no invitations to meet from the city staff or the city council. In the May 18th city council meeting, numerous city council members stated the chamber had never contacted them about the Farmers Market. This is untrue.
Who is getting hurt? Our Sammamish citizens, the public and the businesses / vendors we support.
After so many years of successfully partnering with the City, it is our hope that SCC can resume this relationship and deliver, as we have for the past 12 years, the much-loved Sammamish Farmers Market back at the Sammamish Commons.
Sammamish Chamber Board of Directors
Composed of Sammamish Business Leaders