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April 18, 2024

College of DuPage – Herricane Graphics – Tail wagging the dog?

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On November 11, 2015

DuPage Co. (ECWd) –

Is it any wonder that a contract recipient, who’s contract was found to be invalid, is the very person in the middle of an effort in which a bid was awarded even though it was declared non-compliant by the Procurement Officer?

As reported here, Carla Burkhart, owner of Herricane Graphics, was awarded an invalid Signage and Wayfinding construction management contract in June of 2014.

Then in September, some very disturbing communications took place by e-mail that points to serious legal concerns for those involved, that include providing false information to the Board of Trustees in the actual award of contracts related to this project.

The Players

Julie Cary –  “FORMER” Senior Project Manager – College of DuPage July -December 2014 (Project manager October 2012 -July 2014) Current Project Manager at The University of Chicago

Our tipster referenced in this article, made a point of claiming July Carey left COD because of Carla Burkhart.  Considering Ms. Carey has a BS in Architecture one can only wonder if Burkhart’s false claim of being an Architect inflamed the situation.

Shirely Anderson“FORMER” COD Procurement Officer – Create, evaluate and approve all formal bid documents for compliance; Supervise the opening of bids to ensure the process is conducted fairly and equitably. Prepare materials submitted to the Board of Trustees monthly meeting agenda; (She left COD in February of 2015 – (The same month of the Internal Audit exposing the invalid Herricane Graphics 2014 contract)

Carla Burkhart – Owner of Herricane Graphics  and non-architect signing contracts as the Architect.

Timeline of e-mails

(FOIA e-mail production here) 

Monday, September 29, 2014 6:04 PM: Carla Burkhart e-mails Chicago Sign in regards to the bid provided to COD:   – “Thank you for bidding the College of DuPage Exterior Wayfinding Bid.  As per our discussion, Chicago Sign has agreed to a negotiated price of $40,000.00″ (Remember that number!)

Shirley Anderson e-mail September 30, 2014, at 7:54 AM, “Anderson, Shirley: “What about the fact that he did not complete the Addendum?”

Julie Carey e-mail to Sherley Anderson – September 30, 2014 8:36 AM:  “Shirley, Can we negotiate a bid like this? Don’t we have to rebid and Chicago sign can submit their new number on the rebid?”

Shirely Anderson  responds ONE MINUTE after the above email, September 30, 2014 8:37 and states:  “Yes rebid it please.  You can’t negotiate a sealed bid, especially when they are non-compliant (no addendum submitted with bid).”

So before we go any further, we have an invalid contract awarded to Carla Burkhart (Herricane Graphics) as the construction manager.   She negotiates a sealed bid down to a claimed $40,000.00 before any authority has been provided to do so, and many would argue in direct violation of the law.  Both the Senior Project Manager and Procurement Officer throw a red flag on this matter.

So what does Carla Burkhart do when these red flags are exposed?  Bypass the normal process and go directly to none other than “FORMER” COD Attorney Ken Florey and “FORMER” Executive Vice President Tom Glaser.

This action is consistent with information provided to us from multiple sources. It has been reported that Carla Burkhart ran the show, and even though there was a project manager at COD, Carla called the shots.

Carla Burkhart e-mail Tuesday, September 30, 2014 9:42 AM:   “Dear Shirley and Julie,  Per Tom Glaser and Ken Florey (confirmed yesterday by phone), you can negotiate a sealed bid, but you can ONLY negotiate with the lowest responsible bidder.”

Considering the procurement officer already pointed out you can’t negotiate a sealed bid with an emphasis that it also was a non-compliant bid because of no addendum, that would mean the bidder IS NOT a responsible bidder!

And how special that we KNOW Carla Burkhart KNEW what a responsible bidder was!

“The bidder acknowledges the right of the Owner to reject any or all bids and to waive any informality or irregularity in any bid  received. In addition, the bidder recognizes the right of the Owner  to reject a bid if the bidder failed to submit the data required by the  bidding documents, or if the bid is in any way incomplete or  irregular. Carla(Page 2 of the email chain)

(Three page Email chain tied to above information)

Now that the foundation is laid, let’s expose the manipulation and out right lies presented to the Board of Trustees

Project Manager e-mail to Carla Burkhart Friday, October 03, 2014 4:53 PM:  “Can you provide me some verbiage as to why Chicago Sign was willing to lower their bid from $91,469.00 to $45,000? Are we going to “not get” something we called for in the bid docs?  Is this change strictly from eliminating the concrete pad, soil testing, concrete testing, coated re bar, etc. that Chicago Sign may have interpreted as required during bid?”

$46,469.00, approximately 51%, reduction in the bid?

Response from Carla Burkhart to the above question from Project manager Saturday, October 04, 2014 3:28 PM:  The reason CS was able to negotiate their price is because a vendor that had limited scope capacity, and wasn’t able to bid timely direct to COD was able to provide pricing to CS as a subcontractor, which by comparison was far below CS.”   

The reason was a vendor provided the pricing as a subcontractor to the bidder.  NO OTHER explanation provided!

Project manager  e-mails Carla back On Oct 6, 2014, at 11:42 AM:   “You state below we were able to negotiate Chicago Sign’s bid down to $45,000 because a vendor that was not able to bid directly to COD in a timely manner submitted a price to Chicago Sign. Who is this sub and what will they be doing?  COD needs to know of all subs / contractors. Please let me know so I can release the board letter. The President’s office is calling me every 10 minutes requesting this board write up and I cannot release it until I have this information.”

What was prepared for the board is clearly inconsistent with the information in the e-mails. (See page 67-69 of the Board Packet)

Why was there a reduction in the original bid?

“The bid specifications were interpreted as if concrete pads, soil testing, concrete testing, and coated rebar were required. These processes are not required for a successful sign relocation installation.”  (See page 67 of the Board Packet)

If that is the case then it is clear it should have been put out for bid again, which it was not!

However please note that the answer to that key question as to why the price was reduced is not consistent with the e-mailed answer provided by Carla Burkhart.  Why would a reference to interpretation of bid specification be used in the presentation to the board when in fact it was never presented as a reason for the reduction in the e-mail?

It is a very safe assumption that the verbiage presented to the board was not from the Procurement officer but instead from Carla Burkhart herself!

Just look back at the Julie Carey E-mail to Carla Burkhart Friday, October 03, 2014 4:53 PM”  “Carla, Can you provide me some verbiage as to why Chicago Sign was willing to lower their bid from $91,469.00 to $45,000? Are we going to “not get” something we called for in the bid docs? Is this change strictly from eliminating the concrete pad, soil testing, concrete  testing, coated rebar, etc. that Chicago Sign may have interpreted as required during bid?  I need to include this verbiage on the board letter so please let me know ASAP. Julie”

She eluded to an interpretation issue however Carla KNEW that was not the case and the proof of that is in her own response claiming the price was reduced because of a sub-contractor proving a lower price to the bidder.  How convenient an interpretation issue gets  added to the board packet as one of the reasons for the reduction in price.

What other misrepresentations do we see in the Board Approval Document when compared to this e-mail chain?

How about the fact Carla Burkhart claimed she negotiated the price down to $40,000.00?  Why does the board packet reflect awarding $45,000.00 and not the $40,000.00 she claimed it was in the e-mails?

How about the claim that the the original bid exceeded the budget by $31,469.00 when in fact multiple emails point to $46,469.00 being the actual number it was over bid.  Anyone seeing a bid reduction of $51% is going to have questions, so did the lower number get used as to avoid drawing attention to this mess?

All those problems aside, any bid rigging investigator worth their salt is going to have serious concerns when 49 businesses are solicited for a project and only 1 responds! (See page 67 of the board packet)

  • Is there any truth to the tip we received that Julie Carey left COD because of the questionable control  issues raised by Carla Burkhart’s actions?
  • Why did the Procurement Officer leave COD the same month of the Internal Audit?  Did she take the hit for this chain of screw ups, that Carla claimed had approval from attorney Ken Florey?
  • Will anyone at COD ever answer how Carla Burkhart, a COD Foundation Board member received two no bid contracts for less than $200,000 and ended up getting paid  approximately $750,000.00? 

And for those that may have missed a critical point in this chaos, all of this happened because a contract was awarded to a COD Foundation Board member without any legal advertisement of an RFP and in spite of required deadlines not being met.

Stay tuned for yet more exposure of wrongdoing under the Carla Burkhart Construction Management contract!



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  • Steve Jackson
    Posted at 10:51h, 12 November

    Interesting, however, there is no Procurement Officer position at the College. There is a Manager, a buyer, and an administrative assistant. When your source lies about her job title and responsibilities (a Buyer does not supervise staff as per her linkedin, per the job description posted on the College website). Glad the department is aware of the laws and not afraid to speak up about it, but I would be interested to know why this person “left” and what her motives are after 9 months to suddenly become a whistle blower. if she was the buyer or procurement officer, shouldn’t she have been in charge of ensuring all laws were followed during the process? Does a buyer oversee bids, or does the staff initiating them? My guess…the buyer or manager would be responsible for ensuring applicable laws are followed. If they weren’t, as in quite a few you have written about that occurred during her short tenure at the college, maybe she was asked to leave.

  • Kirk Allen
    Posted at 15:18h, 12 November

    The position of Procurement Officer was reported based on the Linkedin page for Sherley Anderson. Our “source” was not the procurement officer nor did we imply that it was. Where on earth do you get the information this person is a whistle blower? As far as her leaving, we asked the question, why did she leave and did she take the hit for the screw ups?

    • Steve Jackson
      Posted at 15:32h, 12 November

      Oh look same person has a different job title – one which COD ALSO doesn’t have listed.

    • Steve Jackson
      Posted at 15:45h, 12 November

      Oh and look, her facebook lists her attending NIGP to “manage RFPs” How convenient. Funny that is not in her resume- Seems to be several resumes. I wonder what else she lied about and if … perhaps, she was asked to leave for lying?