Ashley Irked Horseback Riding Issue Dropped By Staff

OCEAN CITY – Growing increasingly alarmed over his belief that city staff has allowed multiple action items to fall through the proverbial crack, one councilman this week publically questioned the city manager again.
Last month at the conclusion of a Mayor and City Council meeting, Councilman Brent Ashley brought up the extension of the town’s advertising agency, MGH, contract expressing frustration with how the opportunity for the town to re-bid went to the wayside.
Ashley had approached the subject earlier asking if a Request For Proposal (RFP) to re-bid the town’s advertising contract had been considered. Staff was unsure of the expiration date on MGH’s contract at that time and replied it would be looked into and brought back for discussion.
In the meantime, it was brought to Ashley’s attention MGH’s contract had been renewed for another year as of result of the required 180-day notice period having passed without the city acting on it.
In September of 2012, the former Mayor and City Council voted 5-2, with Joe Hall and Ashley in opposition, to extend MGH’s contract for one year and all future contracts given 180 days’ notice of expiration to give adequate time to properly place a RFP to test the market.
“You have a valid motion, a second, and a majority vote to do this and it never happened,” Ashley said. “We set policy up here, and we pay salaries for professional people to follow the directive of the council.”
At that time, City Manager David Recor claimed responsibility and refused to provide an excuse. He calmly admitted to the notice period passing by therefore having MGH’s contract be renewed.
Ashley asked if there were any other items that may have been overlooked to which Recor responded, “probably.”
With that said a red flag went up for Ashley, who from there went back through 15 months, which is approximately the amount of time Recor has worked for the town, of minutes from staff meetings that are held every Thursday and found another RFP that has been put on the back burner.
In 2011, Ashley brought forward the idea of allowing horseback riding on the beach as an off-season promotion and the council approved the concept, as well as horse and carriage rides downtown. Horseback riding is allowed from 27th Street south to the South Jetty at the Inlet from Nov. 1 to March 30.
Following the first off-season with horseback riding on the beach, in late August of 2012 Ashley asked to have the staff prepare a RFP for a vendor to offer pony and/or horse rides on the beach south of the pier to the Inlet. He also suggested including in the RFP the possibility of adults renting horses from the vendor for riding on the beach because there were many requests for this service last year.
The council voted unanimously to approve the RFP process for pony-led rides and horse rentals.
“On Aug. 20, 2012 the entire council voted unanimously to prepare a RFP for horseback riding services, and I know for a fact on Sept. 27 the RFP was given to you by staff but I have never seen it,” Ashley said this week to Recor.
Recor asked Ashley why he waits until Monday night legislative sessions to bring up the issues instead of picking up the phone to have a conversation with him.
“It was voted on in open session, and if it was voted on in open session I should ask you in open session,” Ashley responded.
On Wednesday, Ashley acknowledged Recor has a lot on his plate but as an elected official Ashley feels it is his responsibility to ensure the integrity in the democratic process.
“Whether the process favors me or it doesn’t I am a big believer in let’s do it the right way … I am not calling anyone out. I am not trying to make an issue out of anything other than the fact that there is integrity in the process here,” Ashley said. “He does have a lot going on. The man is busy everyday but he is the city manager and when the council makes a policy decision that is supposed to be followed through on.”
Ashley assured he supports Recor as city manager and was in favor of him being hired for the position.
“He does an excellent job but again, as a representative of the taxpayers it is my job to make sure policy is followed through with,” Ashley said.
Ashley is looking forward to have the RFP for horseback services return to the council for approval.
“The whole idea of this originally was to stimulate off-season business,” Ashley said.
Recor submitted on Wednesday the RFP for horseback riding on the beach has tentatively been scheduled for discussion on the Recreation and Parks Commission agenda on Tuesday following the Mayor and Council’s regularly scheduled work session.