Professional Services Contracts

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Under T.C.A. § 12-3-1209 (formerly § 12-4-106), “contracts by counties, cities, metropolitan governments, towns, utility districts and other municipal and public corporations of the state, for legal services, fiscal agent, financial advisor or advisory services, educational consultant services, and similar services by professional persons or groups of high ethical standards, shall not be based upon competitive solicitations, but shall be awarded on the basis of recognized competence and integrity. The prohibition against competitive soliciting in this section shall not prohibit any entity enumerated from interviewing eligible persons or entities to determine the capabilities of such persons or entities.”  Similar language in the former statute had been interpreted by the Tennessee Attorney General not to preclude the mention of cost in solicitations as long as cost was not the sole determining factor.  Op. Tenn. Att’y Gen. 89-17 (February 13, 1989).

Architectural and engineering services are procured under T.C.A. § 12-4-107 (formerly § 12-4-106), which provides for procurement by a request for qualifications/experience process and selection of a “firm deemed to be qualified to provide the services required.”  A fair and reasonable price is to be negotiated taking into account “the estimated value of the services to be rendered, the scope of work, complexity and professional nature thereof.”  If satisfactory contract cannot be negotiated, “negotiations will continue with other qualified firms until an agreement is reached.”  If the county has a satisfactory existing working relationship for architectural or engineering services, the scope of services may be expanded without following the procedures set out in this statute as long as the services are within the technical competency of the firm.

In counties operating under the County Financial Management System of 1981, the board of education does not have the authority to enter into contracts for professional services such as architectural and engineering services.  Ops. Tenn. Att'y Gen. 89-76 and 06-139.  The same would hold true in counties operating under the County Purchasing Law of 1957 with schools included.

Under T.C.A. § 12-4-110 (formerly  § 12-4-115), contracts for energy-related services that include both engineering services and equipment and have as their purpose the reduction of energy costs in public facilities must be awarded on the same basis as professional services.

The purchase of insurance is not considered professional services within the meaning of T.C.A. § 12-3-1209, but under T.C.A. § 29-20-407 local governments are authorized to purchase liability insurance through a plan authorized and approved by any organization of governmental entities representing cities and counties without the necessity of competitive bidding.  Op. Tenn. Att'y Gen. 13-65 (August 23, 2013).