Bids / RFPs
Competitive Bidding: Legal Concepts and Principles
The competitive bidding requirement is founded on public policy declared by the Legislature
of California to protect the taxpayers (not businesses) from fraud, corruption, favoritism,
extravagance or carelessness of public officials (regardless of their intent), and the waste
of public funds.
The Public Contract Code and the Education Code govern procurement activities of community
colleges. Pursuant to sections 20111 and 20651 the District is required to bid for public
projects in excess of $15,000, and for equipment, materials, supplies, or services of more
than $86,000. This covers anything furnished, leased, or sold to the
district; and the Board of Trustees must normally award to the "lowest responsive and
The law states: "It shall be unlawful to split or separate into smaller work orders or
projects any project for the purpose of evading the provisions of this article..." A project
may be separated into several trade-oriented contracts, as long as the competitive bidding
requirements have been met.
A contract made without compliance with competitive bidding laws, where such bidding is
required, is void and unenforceable and is in excess of the public agency's power. In addition,
no payments may be made by a public agency under a contract let in violation of the competitive
bidding laws. Exceptions to the bidding laws include the following.
- Educational materials such as textbooks, library books, films, tests, and software.
- Perishable foodstuffs and seasonal commodities needed for the operation of a cafeteria.
- Surplus federal property.
- Energy service contracts.
- Facility financing and ground leases.
- Purchase through other public agencies.
- Emergency repair contracts. Repairs, alteration, or improvements necessary to permit the
continuance of existing classes, or to avoid danger to life or property. Requires unanimous
vote of the Board.
- Special services and advice (consultants) in matters related to financial, economic,
accounting, engineering, legal, and administrative functions, and for the issuance and
preparation of payroll checks.
- Sole source. If a particular product is needed, and only one source exists, to require a
formal bid would be counter-productive. If the act of bidding does not create an economic
advantage, and the purpose of the law would be served, then the bid process is not required.