DOJ: News Release

McGrath: Statutes Give Cities, Towns Options for Cooperative Purchasing

HELENA – In a formal opinion released Thursday, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath held that a municipality may choose to participate in a cooperative purchasing agreement with the state without first going through its own competitive bidding process.

The opinion clarifies the relationship between two statutes relating to purchasing by municipalities.

One was passed in 1907, and describes a procedure for municipalities to purchase some goods and services. The 1907 statute requires municipalities – cities or towns – to advertise for bids and award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. The statute now only applies to the purchase of goods or services with a value over $50,000.

Another was passed in 1983, and it provided for cooperative purchasing between “local procurement units” – including cities and towns – and the state. It makes no mention of the 1907 statute, however, and does not require the municipalities to go through the bidding process outlined in it.

The opinion noted that when the legislature established the new cooperative purchasing process it did not repeal the existing statute, and it did not require a municipality to go through the first set of bidding steps before proceeding to the second process.

“These facts establish a legislative intent to leave in place two independent, alternative procedures for the purchase of goods and services by municipalities,” McGrath held.

Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent requested the opinion. Opinions of the attorney general carry the weight of law unless a court overturns them or the legislature modifies the laws involved.

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