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May 20, 2024

Vermilion County: The Tale of Two (False) Memos –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On October 14, 2013


During the October 8, 2013 Vermilion County Board Meeting, the Assistant State’s Attorney, Mr. Donahue, refered the board to two memos he distributed to them. One being a memo on audio and video recording, the other on his definition of “professional services” as it relates to the no-bid $637,500.00 contract for GIS services.

Curious as to the contents of the two memos, I submitted a FOIA request for a copy of them.

The Audio / Video “Memo”

The first memo is the audio/video memo, in which the undated/unsigned memo, purported to be from the “County Board Office” talked about why they installed four cameras in their board room. While the Edgar County Watchdogs appreciate and support all attempts at keeping citizens informed thru video taping and uploading their meeting for people to watch at a later date, what concerns me is the language and tone of this letter. It has the appearance of being hostile towards citizens and those that wish to speak during public sessions. It also has the appearance of an attempt to “document” things that did not happen, so they can use it at a later date as if it did happen. We’ve seen this before, so we’re used to it…

Here are some of the comments that concern me, since I do not believe they are true in any way, but merely an attempt to “build a case” to support anything they plan to do in the future. But this case-building trip they are on is one filled with false statements and innuendos. This unsigned, undated memo had the following unfounded accusations in it: “intimidation and bullying” – “claims that board members were “physically accosted” – public sessions that were “attempts at intimidation and bullying” – “increasingly violent and disruptive tone” – claims that board members were “physically blocked in their movement” – claims of attempts at “disruption” of their meetings – and of course, in classic “we are claiming victim status, so please feel sorry for us” style, the letter was unsigned.

Of course, NONE of this happened, and you can watch the videos of previous board meetings here, here, and here (where I think they are trying to say i blocked board member’s movements – which did not happen). The October 8 board meeting is here. Please watch them and come to your own conclusion.

Here is a copy of my most recent FOIA request to the Vermilion County Board asking for copies of the following:

– Anything showing proof of or substantiating the claim of specific instances of “intimidation and bullying” at meetings
– Anything showing proof of or substantiating the claim of board member(s) being “physically accosted”
– Anything showing proof of or substantiating the claim of any comments that were perceived as “attempts at intimidation and bullying”
– Anything showing proof of or substantiating the claim of board member(s) being “physically blocked in their movement” here (I assume that means board room) and in public
– Anything showing proof of or substantiating the claim of attempts at “disruption”
– Anything showing proof of or substantiating the claim of “baseless allegations, hoping to confuse or mislead others”
– Anything showing proof of or substantiating the claim of “increasingly violent and disruptive tone” of some comments
– Name of individual(s) authoring the undated, unsigned document entitled “Memo from the County Board Office” in which the subject was generally audio and video recording

Finally, the last two sentences are complete fabrications also. This board has obviously not listened and are actively trying to keep from listening. Even going so far as saying there is nothing they can do, and if they did something, it would be illegal. What a cop-out. If there is nothing that can be done within the law, why is it that other counties CAN do something (like increasing the setbacks), as a matter of fact Iroquois County did it just last month. The board also claimed during the meeting and in this memo that the matter is between those affected and Invenergy – if that is the case, why is the Asistant State’s Attorney shuffling paperwork back and forth with Invenergy like they were old frat brothers?

Comments on the memo of “Professional Services” written by the

Assistant State’s Attorney for Vermilion County Illinois, William T. Donahue.

Mr. Donahue refers to several opinions, statutes, and court cases to make his argument that G.I.S. services are not required to be let out for bid, and his opinion is that it is a “professional service”. In the following we shoot holes in his theory, since basically nothing he quoted supports his position (see memos here).

Donahue Citing: Court Street Steak House, Inc. -v- County of Tazewell

His first claim is the case of Court Street Steak House, Inc. v. County of Tazewell, an Illinois Supreme Court Case in which the county accepted a bid for food service that was not the lowest bid. Donahue correctly states that in this case, the Supreme Court determined the proper statute to look at was the Counties Code, 55 ILCS 5/5-1022. What he failed to mention is that in this court case the service was let out for bid (unlike Vermilion County and the GIS contract) and Tazewell County used some discretion and awarded the contract to the second lowest bidder instead of the lowest bidder. The difference between the two bids was $1400 for a year. It was a split vote and several dissenting judges claimed the county’s actions amounted to “favoritism”, the very item the statute was designed to prevent.

The contract subject to this court case was let out for bid, unlike the GIS contract in Vermilion County. Finally, Vermilion County did not have a “social goal” related to this GIS contract.

Donahue Citing: American Health Care Providers, Inc. -v- County of Cook

His second claim was with American Health Care Providers, Inc. v County of Cook. This is not applicable to the Vermilion County GIS situation since the jist of the case was the reaffirmation of “Home Rule” for Cook County as it relates to competitive bidding for contracts. Vermilion County is not a “Home Rule” county.

The contract for services in this court case against Cook County was let out for bid, unlike the GIS contract in Vermilion County.

Donahue Citing: Shively -v- Belleville Township High School District No. 21

His third claim, Shively v Belleville Township High School District No 21, was a case in which the contract was let out for bid, in particular in that by soliciting proposals from five companies; this was in fact a bidding process. Also, the court determined the contract involved was a professional service.

The Statute(s) in question was the Illinois School Code, not the Counties Code as is the case with Vermilion County

The contract subject to this court case with the School District was let out for bid, unlike the Vermilion County GIS contract.

Donahue Citing: Illinois Attorney General Opinion 00-014

Finally, he cites Illinois Attorney General (non-binding) Opinion 00-014. This Opinion does not apply to the Vermilion County GIS contract issue. This opinion is in reference to a Township Assessor, and the AG opinion determined that a Township Assessor was in fact a “Professional Service” and therefore not subject to competitive bidding.

In coming to this conclusion, the AG cites the Property Tax Code and the fact that it says when a vacancy occurs, a qualified successor shall be appointed (or contracted with), without making reference to a bidding process. It further defines the term “qualified” as it pertains to township assessors in the Property Tax Code. This opinion further quotes the township code and its reference to bidding being required except for professional services.

What Mr. Donahue leaves out of the paragraph he quotes, is the sentence stating that it is well recognized that professional services are not primarily work or labor oriented, but instead involve essentially a mental productIt further states that competitive bidding was primarily for good and services contract where a good or service is actually delivered. GIS is primarily work or labor oriented.

And in case Mr. Donahue missed it, those offering GIS are in fact offering goods and services!

The Statutes(s) cited in the opinion are the Township Code and the Illinois Property Tax Code; not the Counties Code as in the case with Vermilion and the GIS contract.

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