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When Bids Must be Opened Publicly Under Ch. 30B

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

A recent Appeals Court judgment in favor of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission in Airport Fuels, Inc. v. Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, No. 22-P-412 (June 2, 2023), serves as a helpful reminder that Chapter 30B’s procurement procedures are not one-size-fits-all. While the Commission prevailed in that case despite mixing up the applicable procurement requirements, it will surely heed Chapter 30B more carefully in the future.

G.L. c.30B, § 16 governs the acquisition or disposition of real property and requires that proposals be opened publicly. Section 6 of Chapter 30B governs solicitation for supplies or services costing more than $50,000 and, in contrast to section 16, prohibits the public opening of proposals. [NB: Schools must follow the provisions of Section 6 if the contract is for more than $100,000.] The Commission issued a request for proposals to lease the Commission’s property at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. The proposal correctly cited to Section 16 in the RFP. However, the Commission opened the bids privately, following the procedure of Section 6.

The Commission’s selection of the winning bid was challenged in the Appeals Court by Airport Fuels, Inc (AFI), who had submitted a losing proposal. AFI argued that the Commission’s choice could not stand because it did not follow the proper process for real estate disposition. Fortunately for the Commission, the Appeals Court found that the private bid opening was an “honest mistake” and a mere technicality because the method of opening did not alter the outcome of the bid process. Under slightly different circumstances, however, the process could have been invalidated. Thus, it is important that the differences between Sections 16 and 6 (or other applicable sections of Chapter 30B) not be ignored.

Be sure to check the link in the Rapid Fire Update. The Inspector General has issued an updated Chapter 30B Manual.


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