On September 14, 2011, the Architect Newswire linked to an article published by the Voice of Orange County (VOC) on September 13, 2011, concerning me and my firm, Scott Fazekas & Associates, Inc. (SFA), and my role as building official for the City of Anaheim, California.
The VOC article implied that I had been using my role as a contracted building official for the City of Anaheim to influence the assignment of the city's building plan-checks to SFA. Among many relevant facts the article did not report, however, was that SFA had been one of the City’s plan-check outside consultant firms for the previous 12 years and that my recent appointment as an interim building official was at the request of the city.
The article also did not report that I was explicitly, under the terms of my contract with the city, not involved, directly or indirectly, in the assignment of city plan-check contracts to my company, or to any other outside company for that matter. Indeed, I requested specific provisions in my contract with the city, prior to starting as building official, which would remove me from the position of having any conflict of interest, relying instead of the city's own and existing staff, to fully manage any such outsourcing.
Moreover, despite the contrary suggestions contained in the article, my company did not receive substantially more work during my term as building official than it had historically received prior to my appointment by the City. In fact, during the 30 months prior to my term in Anaheim, over 68 percent of the total outsourced work from the city was outsourced to SFA. SFA has been a consultant in good standing with the City of Anaheim since 1998.
In addition, the VOC article contained several inaccurate and incomplete statements of fact concerning timeframes, certain activities, and dollar amounts involved, and, as a result, the article was false and misleading. For instance, the article stated that in the twelve months prior to my appointment as building official, the city outsourced $60,000 of work, and only 8 percent of such work was assigned to SFA. In fact, during that time, the city spent a total of only $7,500 on outsourcing plan review due to the poor economy, and SFA received 21 percent of such work along with four other consultants who were also on contract.
Without having checked the facts, the article thus drew incorrect conclusions, and it imputed by inference improper conduct based on the inaccurate and incomplete facts described. The article also insinuated that the city staff acted improperly and irresponsibly in connection with how they handled such outsourcing, with no facts reported in the article to support such insinuations.
SFA has always meticulously avoided not only conflicts of interest or impropriety, but even the perception of conflicts of interest and impropriety. For instance, SFA has provided zero private-sector design or consulting work to avoid having a financial relationship with anyone in the development sector which would implicate any bias in plan reviews for cities or municipalities. I have consistently applied the same standards of care to my role as building official to insure I would not be involved with assignment of outsourced plan-checks while working with the City of Anaheim.
The VOC article also implied SFA was a “cheap” firm, rhetorically asking, for instance, “[w]hat remains unclear is why, if Scott Fazekas & Associates was the least expensive firm [as confirmed by a City official], [SFA] did not receive the majority of the work before Fazekas was named head of the building division … ” The fact is that SFA had proposed a proportionately lower rate due to the City’s proportionately higher plan-check fee, a fact which all consultants were made aware of in writing during the  RFP process.
During my term with the City, I encouraged the City’s management staff to offer the other consultants the option of lowering their fees to match SFA’s so they might also be considered by the City when farming out work. I offered this suggestion in the spirit of fairness and transparency. As a result, two of the other three firms willingly dropped their rates, to the benefit of all concerned. I could have remained silent on the disparity in consultant rates, but chose not to in the best interests of the City and its citizens.
In summary, the VOC article, to which the Architect Newswire linked, inaccurately and unfairly portrayed me and SFA in the professional community. I hope that this response sets the record straight.
Scott Fazekas, AIA