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April 12, 2024

Did Clark County Park District Hire Engineer Firm in Violation of Policy ?

By LisaThomas

On August 24, 2016


Does anyone at the Clark County Park District read the policy manual? I have, and when read in its entirety it becomes clear that policy means nothing to the Clark County Park District Board Members, Executive Director, and Board Attorney.  Just a small sampling of violations include hiring of an out of district Executive Director and giving her 1 year to move in district despite the 3 months required in the policy manual, accepting a “donation” (which was discovered by those pesky citizens was not in fact donation but a trade in services) of free paint and services without a board vote, and now soliciting bids and incurring debt on architectural, engineering, and/or surveying services from Hannum, Wagle, and Cline.

First, let’s remember the Park District Code, Section 4-6 forbids the board and employees of the District from incurring debt, liabilities, etc. without express approval at a board meeting and written into the minutes – meaning “prior to” creating the debt or liability. We have submitted a FOIA for those minutes, but doubt there are any.

It was discovered that the CCPD Board was being called upon to vote to approve a bill to Hannum, Wagle, and Cline in the amount of $1,200.00 on August 18, 2016 at the CCPD regular monthly meeting for preliminary engineering services. Public comment was given that evening informing the Board of the requirements under the Local Government Professional Services Selection Act (50 ILCS 510). Mrs. Lorna Geiler, CCPD Counsel, informed the Board during the meeting that those requirements do not pertain to the case concerning Hannum, Wagle, and Cline as CCPD has an “established” relationship with the firm. This, in my opinion, is a stretch at best seeing that no services from Hannum, Wagle, and Cline have been billed to CCPD since 2011. This might slide with the state law in a courtroom, but what is important to note here is that policy can be more restrictive than state statute and a local government’s written policy “furnishes the method and machinery for the government and management of the district” (Veazy v. Rich Twp High School District), are “binding on the Board“, and “carry the force of law.”

Let’s take a look at CCPD’s policy (click here) on page 55:

Selection Process for Professional Services:

“Based on the Act (referring to 50 ILCS 510), the District’s policy is to evaluate firms through a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Qualification (RFQ) process unless staff has had experience with a firm in the past three (3) years. Staff should solicit proposals from at least three (3) or more firms and provide them with an equitable process for submitting a proposal. Firms submitting proposals are evaluated on their qualifications, ability of professional personnel, past experience, references, ability to meet timeline and budget, location, and other such factors relevant to the project. Staff should select no less than three (3) firms to be evaluated and rank them in order of qualifications. If fewer than three firms submit proposals, staff can determine if more firms need to be solicited or to proceed with less than three. Staff should conduct interviews with the top firms and then negotiate a contract at a fair and reasonable compensation with the top firm. The Board must approve all contracts over $20,000.

As specified in the Act, the Board may waive the selection procedure established above if it determines that an emergency situation exists and a firm must be selected in an expeditious manner. Firms that provide architectural, engineering or land surveying services can file a statement of qualifications and performance data with the district annually as specified in the Act.”

The process spelled out in the policy manual is very similar as to what is required in the state statute. What is better clarified in the state statute, Section 5 – Evaluation Procedure (Local Government Professional Services Selection Act), is as follows:

“In no case shall a political subdivision, prior to selecting a firm for negotiation under Section 7, seek formal or informal submission of verbal or written estimates of costs or proposals in terms of dollars, hours required, percentage of construction cost, or any other measure of compensation. “

Again, I must ask, has anyone at CCPD read the policy manual? Shouldn’t they take the time to do that?  Wouldn’t it be wise for the board attorney to do that prior to blabbering out opinions, which by all indications are wrong?

We will soon post an article on a recent court decision that local government can be sued for violations of their written policies.
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