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COD – Is the Herricane Graphics contract a fraud?

January 1, 2015   ·   9 Comments

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DuPage Co. (ECWd) –

We understand to allude to fraud is serious, so once again we will provide you with all the information to include the related statutes, College of DuPage (COD) Documents, and our analysis so you can judge if we hit the nail on the head.

As you know we have been exposing the COD no bid contracts with Herricane Graphics, owned by Carla Burkhart, a COD Foundation Board member. You can see a couple of the teaser articles that brought us to this point by clicking here and here.  Those contracts were awarded under the claim she qualifies for them by being a professional service provider, which if true would be legal if certain things were complied with.

We now have a copy of the first no-bid contract for Herricane Graphics. (Click here for copy of contract)

The contract is between COD (owner) and Herricane Graphics (“Architect”).  One big problem!  Herricane Graphics does not show up as a licensed Architect in the State of Illinois, but please do not take our word for it, look for yourself at this link (State License Look Up page) .

Thinking there is no way they would contract with a business that is not licensed as an Architect, I submitted another FOIA.  The request and response can be viewed by clicking here.

Request: Copy of any documentation pertaining to Herricane Graphics and/or Carla Burkhart being a licensed Architect for the purpose of exercising a contract for professional services (contract provided in previous FOIA). This request would be for copies of any Architect license or any other document that supports Herricane Graphics and/or Carla Burkhart possesses said license.

Response: The college does not have any documents responsive to your request.

So we have confirmed neither the Division of Professional and Financial Regulations nor COD have any record that Carla Burkhart or Herricane Graphics is a licensed Architect.

How can COD enter into a contract with a company for Architectural services, using an American Institute of Architects form, when the person signing the contract as the Architect is not an Architect, assuming the state database is up to date, which they assured us it is?

Not believing anyone could be so foolish as to sign a contract without validating the proper credentials I kept digging.  I found some direction in the law.  Specifically (225 ILCS 305/14).

Every holder of a license as an architect shall display it in a conspicuous place in the principal office of the architect.

So all I had to do was go to the business address listed by the Secretary of State for Herricane Graphics, which is the same as what is on the contract and look for the license displayed in a conspicuous place in the principal office of the architect. What we found was rather strange to say the least, considering this firm has been the recipient of over $500,000.00 through these no bid contracts.

Business Store FrontIt was hard to see all of the office through the window so we can’t say that the license was not displayed, but what we could see, we found no such license.  Oddly, we found no name on the store front either.  For an Architectural firm to not have a name on their store front they must have so much business they are not looking for any more.

The search for any confirmation or hint that Carla Burkhart is an Architect continued.

I cannot speak for others, but I am willing to bet most any person out there that has become an Architect is proud of that accomplishment and would ensure that accomplishment was a part of who you were on both social media and your business store front.

Unfortunately, even with the power of Google, we have been unable to find one shred of evidence that Carla Burkhart is an Architect, let alone a licensed one in Illinois. It does appear though she does in fact hold herself out to be a Graphic Designer based on the text found in this photo taken of her by a professional photographer.

As the last ditch effort we went to the source, Carla Burkhart.  I sent an email to the two addresses found on documents provided by COD.  E-mails that people interested in graphics design work were to use if they had questions on projects being managed by Burkhart on behalf of COD.  To date she has not responded from either e-mail account. (Click here for a copy of the e-mail sent requesting confirmation on her status as an Architect.)

We are researching no bid contracts between COD and Foundation Board members. A contract with your company, Herricane Graphics, was awarded without any bidding. COD claims they do not have to bid Professional Services.

The contract reflects that you are an Architect however the state licensing does not list you as such.

Do you have an architect’s license issued from another state?

Any input you would like to provide on this matter is appreciated.
Thanks
Kirk Allen
Illinoisleaks.com

What is an Architect? 

(225 ILCS 305/5) (from Ch. 111, par. 1305)
(Section scheduled to be repealed on January 1, 2020)
Sec. 5. Architect defined; Acts constituting practice.
(a) An architect is a person who is qualified by education, training, experience, and examination, and who is licensed under the laws of this State, to practice architecture.

Now it is safe to assume, based on all the evidence available,  neither Carla Burkhart nor Herricane Graphics are a licensed Architect in Illinois.  Had they been they could have qualified for a no bid contract at some point. More on that process in the future.

What does the law say about holding yourself out to be a licensed Architect when you’re not?

(225 ILCS 305/36) (from Ch. 111, par. 1336)
(Section scheduled to be repealed on January 1, 2020)
Sec. 36. Violations. Each of the following Acts constitutes a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class 4 felony for a second or subsequent offense:

(g) If any person, sole proprietorship, professional service corporation, limited liability company, corporation or partnership, or other entity practices architecture or advertises or displays any sign or card or other device that might indicate to the public that the person or entity is entitled to practice as an architect or use the title “architect” or any of its derivations unless the person or other entity holds an active license as an architect or registration as a professional design firm in the State; then, in addition to any other penalty provided by law any person or other entity who violates this subsection (g) shall forfeit and pay to the Design Professionals Administration and Investigation Fund a civil penalty in an amount determined by the Department of not more than $10,000 for each offense.

By signing the contract that places her company name on the very first page as the Architect, it appears we have a direct violation of state law, and this is just the beginning of the exposure!

Where things get even more troubling, in what I call a no-bid scam to take care of their own foundation board members, is the fact Breuder presents to the board a suggested approval for a Signage Design Contract. (Click here for a copy of the presented board document.)

Yet the the actual contract is an American Institute of Architects  Document B101™–2007, which is a one-part standard form of agreement between owner and architect for Building Design and Construction Contract Administration.

It would appear when looking at the whole picture, the way to pass off a no bid contract to the board, who does not know the law, is to tell them it is a Professional Service and cite the section of the Community Colleges Act that refers to that ability.  Then you conveniently fail to point them to the Local Government statute, which COD is required to follow as well. Had they shared that statute with the board it would have thrown a real wrench in their well greased machine.

Specifically, that statute outlines what a Professional Service is and outlines the requirements as it relates to bidding etc.   A Professional Service is not what Breuder says it is.  It is what the law says it is!

“Any individual, firm, partnership, corporation, association or other legal entity permitted by law to practice the profession of architecture, engineering or land surveying and provide architectural, engineering or land surveying services.”

So let’s make this a simple step by step explanation for those that simply are overwhelmed with the information, which is just the tip of the iceburg.

  • Breuder claimed Herricane Graphics is a Professional Service and not required to bid.
  • COD Board approves the contract as presented to them.
  • Breuder enters COD into the contract with a COD Foundation Board member owned company named  Herricane Graphics.
  • The Contract is between COD and an Architect named Herricane Graphics
  • Records prove Herricane Graphics is not an Architect.
  • COD has no evidence that Herricane Graphics is an Architect.
  • To qualify for no bid contracts certain criteria must be met, of which Herricane Graphics has not met.
  • Herricane Graphics has held themselves out to be an Architect which directly violates state law and considering we have records where it was done more than once, it may be considered a Class 4 felony.
  • Breuder failed to disclose all the facts in the documents presented to the board which may constitute deceptive practices.

The information that initially put us on this trail has proven to be spot on.  The Board of Trustees, in my opinion, have been deceived by both Breuder and all those involved in this contract and others we have yet to write about. A contract that is a Building Design and Construction Contract with a person they claim is an Architect, while at the same time deceiving the board by telling them it is a Signage Design contract.

No where in all the records we have received does COD ever refer to Carla Burkhart or her company as an Architect except in the contracts.  Everywhere else she is refereed to as the Graphics Design Consultant.

It appears to be one big pay-to-play between COD and its Foundation board member, just as Trustee McGuire showed concern over.  Sadly she failed to follow up on those concerns!

Maybe now the local media will start asking some tough questions!

Maybe local citizens should take this information to the local law enforcement agencies and file a criminal complaint? 

It is becoming clear that it is not only Carla Burkhart that has a problem, but Breuder and anyone else who was involved in this deception to the Board of Trustees and to the taxpayers.

(720 ILCS 5/17-1) (from Ch. 38, par. 17-1)
Sec. 17-1. Deceptive practices.

(A) General deception.
A person commits a deceptive practice when, with intent to defraud, the person does any of the following:
(1) He or she knowingly causes another, by deception or threat, to execute a document disposing of property or a document by which a pecuniary obligation is incurred.
(2) Being an officer, manager or other person participating in the direction of a financial institution, he or she knowingly receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent.
(3) He or she knowingly makes a false or deceptive statement addressed to the public for the purpose of promoting the sale of property or services.

For purposes of paragraphs (A)(1) and (B)(1):
(a) The commission of a deceptive practice in violation of paragraph (A)(1) or (B)(1), when the value of the property so obtained, in a single transaction or in separate transactions within a 90-day period, exceeds $150, is a Class 4 felony.

Can anyone honestly come to the conclusion the misleading assertions made by Breuder in public records (e-mails), in which he is misleading a trustee about the real requirements of bidding, prepared board approval documents claiming the type of contract to be one thing when in fact the contract is different, is not a party to a deceptive practice?

May 2015 bring Truth, Transparency, and Accountability to the good citizens of DuPage County!

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Readers Comments (9)

  1. Kirk Allen says:

    Personally, I think this contract was put together as a front and they never thought anyone would raise any issues. I dont believe that Carla Burkhart is out promoting herself as an Architect, however the second she signed this contract naming her as such that is, BY LAW, holding yourself out as an Architect. “Exclusions” to the scope does raise more questions but how about this little tidbit in the paperwork.

    Page 30 of the contract files linked above:
    “HEC 911 SIGNAGE – HERRICANE GRAPHICS #01: $14,159.00. This is a change order to increase the contract to Herricane Graphics. The initial contract was for design only. Herricane was the successful contractor for installation as well. The total budget anticipated for this scope of work was $32,254.00 and with this change this work is within that budget. This is an Owner-Requested Scope Change”

    So she gets the contract to be in charge of the project and presto, she is the successful contractor for installation as well? How does that happen?

     Reply
  2. Anony says:

    How can she have an “architecture” contract when Exhibit E — which actually defines the scope of the work — expressly states, “Exclusions to the scope [of the work to be performed] include; architecture, geotechnical, survey, construction layout, construction testing, structural engineering, and any LEED design or submittal requirements, although Herricane will coordinate our Work with COD and their separate consultants and contractors.”

     Reply
  3. Zim says:

    Questions remaining; Who is she related to? How long have H.G. ,or her, been a “COD Foundation” member? Whom was listed as the original foundation member the first time H.G. appeared on any paper? Is there any relationship, personal or business, to any COD employee, trustee, or any other foundation member? Was this an attempt at a IRS tax write-off? As in “We give you 500K, You donate most of it back to COD, and write it off as a donation on your taxes? Over valued donations claiming to be educational donations by various entities have been done before (E.G. an airplane, and art ).
    Will COD legal attempt to explain away the term ‘Architect’ as a word used to describe her as the designer and creator of the signage, instead of the actual legal definition? As in- she was the architect of a contract or business model. And finally, who are the other members of her firm, and do any of them have relationships with COD? Remembering how CODs original President lost his position because he was running a degree by mail scheme, out of a motel in Florida while still president of COD, just about any malfeasance is possible.

     Reply
  4. Kirk Allen says:

    A Complaint to AIA is only accepted against those who are members of AIA and I cant find any indication that she is a member of AIA.

     Reply
  5. Kirk Allen says:

    Multiple complaints have already been filed with the state IDFPR.

    The signed contract and related board authorization documents are downloadable from the links in the article.

    Executive Staff authorization presented to the board – http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Herricane-Graphics-apt-2012-highlighted.pdf

    Signed contract – http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Herricane-Graphics-Contract-highlighted1.pdf

     Reply
  6. Elizabeth Gruber says:

    Great work by these Watchdogs…now will Lisa Madigan step in and do her job

     Reply
  7. Anonymous says:

    In addition, an architectural firm is required to hold a separate IL license as a “design firm”

     Reply
  8. Bill B says:

    https://www.idfpr.com/Admin/Filing/DPR/Complaint.asp

    Your assessment is correct. Any person may file an on-line complaint with the IDFPR and they are required by law to investigate. This seems like a clear case of unlicensed practice. It maybe useful to include related documents such as the signed contract and COD board authorization. A determination of unlicensed practice must be published and may be a useful condition to further expose fraud of the COD Board.

     Reply
  9. no name given says:

    You should report them to the AIA. I takes 4 years of undergrad, 3 years of grad school, 3 years of internship and then passing 5 exams before you are eligible to become a licensed architect. Sort of like going to med school in time and cost.

     Reply




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