New Sedgwick County policy calls for ‘cone of silence’ on bid process

Sedgwick County wants to get smart on purchasing through a new policy calling for a “cone of silence” on the bid process.

It would also curtail the use of e-mail to discuss potential contracts.

County staff members would meet in teams to study proposals submitted by businesses to provide goods and services to the county.

“The evaluation team will meet in person and confer; email communication is insufficient,” according to the draft policy. “At all times, all members of the evaluation team shall be required to maintain a cone of silence.”

The term “cone of silence” is best known as a running gag originating in the 1960s television comedy series “Get Smart” – occasionally used by the fictional spy agency Control and its Agent 86, Maxwell Smart.

Consisting of two large clear plastic bubbles, the device would descent from the ceiling over Smart and the Chief of Control, ostensibly to prevent eavesdropping on ultra-secret conversations.

The joke was that while neither the Chief nor Smart could hear each other, bystanders outside the Cone could easily hear every word they said.

Other local governments, such as Broward County and Miami-Dade County in Florida, use the cone of silence concept as a part of their competitive bidding process.

In Sedgwick County’s case, the cone of silence is “the prohibition of certain types of specified communication … to protect the integrity of the procurement process by shielding it from undue influence prior to the recommendation of contract award,” according to the draft policy.

(Read more: Wichita Eagle)