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July 21, 2024

What does Tri-State Fire Protection District and College of DuPage have in common?

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On August 6, 2015

DuPage Co. (ECWd)
The Tri-State Fire Protection District came to our attention after our work at COD was off and running.  Numerous requests for assistance hit our in box, and after reviewing a series of articles by the Better Government Association we knew there would be more! (BGA Article).
Those articles showed the public the improper use of taxpayer money, the conflict of the trustee giving her civil union partner promotions and benefits, and brought into question how equipment was purchased. We were able to take some time to FOIA documentation from the district based on input from local citizens on the relationship of a board member to the purchase of several ambulances both new and used.  What we found appears to be a clear violation of the state ethics policy and the fire protection district act by Mr. Michael Orrico, the board treasurer.
In September of last year, Tri-State put out an RFP, not a request for bids, for two new ambulances. A number of qualified companies sent in offers to provide the ambulances like Foster Coach ($181,150 per ambulance) and Alexis Fire ($161,935 per ambulance) and Fire Services, Inc. (about $164,000 per ambulance), however it appears all of these were sent in by email and were not sealed.
After the RFP for two ambulances were put out, the agent for Fire Services, Inc offered a used ambulance to the district for about $170,000. That ambulance was later bought for $167,965. This ambulance was not bid out and was not part of the published RFP process, but somehow this — USED ambulance cost more than a new ambulance.
After initial quotes being placed by all three companies, only one company was considered, Fire Services, Inc. Final offers from Fire Services, Inc. were made on the ambulances without a Stryker power loader for a 2013 chassis Wheeled Coach ambulance for $166,087 and for a 2015 chassis Wheeled Coach ambulance for $169,702.
On a side note, the agent for Fire Services, Inc talked directly to Mike Orrico about a hood issue with the paint in January of 2015 on the used ambulance.
Final invoices for the two ambulances were issued early this year. On February 20, 2015 Fire Services, Inc invoiced $162,587 for a 2015 chassis ambulance, and on May 26, 2015 Fire Services, Inc invoiced $166,202 for a 2015 chassis ambulance. The district also purchased a no-bid — USED ambulance from Fire Services, Inc. for a total of three ambulances on a two ambulance RFP.

Now where this gets even more interesting is with the discovery that that one of the trustees works for the company that eventually sold the ambulances to the district.

Mr. Michael Orrico sells fire equipment for Fire Service, Inc. (Fire Service Inc, Screen shot).  What did he say about his employment in his Economic Disclosure Statement for his trustee position (page 55 of the pdf below)? Not a word:

“Except for professional service entities, the name of any entity and any position held therein from which income in excess of $1,200 was derived during the preceding calendar year if the entity does business with a unit of local government in relation to which the person is required to file.”

Mr. Orrico said N/A.

What is the consequence for nondisclosure?

(5 ILCS 420/4A-107) Any person required to file a statement of economic interests under this Article who willfully files a false or incomplete statement shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Did he mention his relationship with the company as required by law under the Illinois Fire Protection District Act? Nope. My review of all the online minutes show he didn’t say anything at the time the RFP’s were put out or when they were reviewed. He blatantly violated 70 ILCS 705/4 by not paying attention to the below:

“No trustee or employee of such district shall be directly or indirectly interested financially in any contract work or business or the sale of any article, the expense, price or consideration of which is paid by the district; nor in the purchase of any real estate or other property, belonging to the district, or which shall be sold for taxes or assessments or by virtue of legal process at the suit of the district.”

There are exemptions to this rule which are all inclusive but none apply to Mr. Orrico:

A. The award of the contract is approved by a majority vote of the board of trustees of the fire protection district provided that any such interested member shall abstain from voting; (NO VOTE TAKEN according to available minutes)
B. the amount of the contract does not exceed $1000; (WELL OVER $1000)
C. the award of the contract would not cause the aggregate amount of all such contracts so awarded to the same person, firm, association, partnership, corporation, or cooperative association in the same fiscal year to exceed $2000; (WELL OVER $2000)
D. such interested member publicly discloses the nature and extent of his interest prior to or during deliberations concerning the proposed award of the contract; (NO DISCLOSURE ON PUBLIC RECORD)
E. such interested member abstains from voting on the award of the contract, though he shall be considered present for the purposes of establishing a quorum. (DID NOT ABSTAIN SINCE BOARD DIDN’T VOTE ON THIS CONTRACT according to available minutes)
Did he abstain from voting for the purchase of these two ambulances? That one is a little more sticky since this board doesn’t appear to vote for large ticket items in open session. Not one discussion was had in the months before or after the bids were taken on approving a major equipment purchase. Perhaps that was to cover for Mr. Orrico’s conflict, I don’t know. (Link to all those minutes)
What are the consequences of Mr. Orrico’s acts:

“Any officer or employee who violates this Section is guilty of a Class 4 felony and in addition thereto any office held by such person so convicted shall become vacant and shall be so declared as part of the judgment of the court.”

How did the lawyers for the district allow this to happen on their watch?

Probably because the district uses the same law firm as the College of DuPage was using under Breuders watch!  (Attorney for Tri-State FPD)

Stay tuned for some pretty amazing exposure yet to come!

You can see the paper trail on this article below or download.

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