Piatt Co. (ECWd) -
We routinely find local government bodies being given bad legal advice from their attorney, but in the Village of Hammond, a new twist.
Legal advice is given but ignored.
The Village wants a new maintenance building, and it's going to cost more than $25,000.00, which requires certain steps to be taken.
The law is pretty clear when it comes to spending more than $25,000.00. The first step is to have an ordinance for bidding. According to the attorney, The Village of Hammond does not have a bidding ordinance nor have we located any adoption of any ordinance since their communication with the attorney.
"I will get an example bidding ordinance to you soon as well, as we discussed, for the Village to consider in enacting one." Andrew Hall Beckett Law Office, P.C.
I asked for the bid publication where the Village sought bids for this project.
"There was not an advertisement for request placed. Per our attorney, the bidding process could be waived due to time constraints/safety issue." Village Clerk Brenda Sebens
Not what the attorney said!
"I have done a bit of research after our phone conversation and have an answer for you. For projects over $25,000.00, municipalities are supposed to publicly seek bids from as many bidders as they reasonably can find, and select among the bids. The bidding process can be waived, however, by a vote of the Village Board with 2/3 voting to waive bidding, and then selecting a party to enter into a contract with for the services. Given the time constraints and concerns that the Village has in connection to the structural suitability of the existing pole barn, I believe a waiver of bidding will save time and address the Village's concerns".
"It may be wise, even in the circumstance of a vote to waive bidding, that more than one contractor is approached for an estimate. This will offer evidence that the Village sought a good price. I will get an example bidding ordinance to you soon as well, as we discussed, for the Village to consider in enacting one." - Andrew Hall Beckett Law Office, P.C.
The attorney was clear that a vote of 2/3rds of the board is what was needed to not bid out this project.
This report provided to the Village by an Architect firm makes no mention of the word safety in their report and considering the information we have obtained that reflects the project could not be started before the first of the year, claims of time and safety being a reason to not bid this project out are bogus.
"Would be able to start after the first of the year" (Found in these minutes)
More concerning is the action taken by this Village as it was a clear disregard for the legal advice provided and the law. The attorney advised bidding can be circumvented with a 2/3rds vote of the board, which is consistent with the law:
"...by a contract let to the lowest responsible bidder after advertising for bids, in the manner prescribed by ordinance, except that any such contract may be entered into by the proper officers without advertising for bids, if authorized by a vote of two-thirds of all the aldermen or trustees then holding office;"
According to the minutes, there has been no vote to circumvent bidding.
As pointed out, the Village did not have any bidding ordinance, a requirement for bidding, however, the minutes reflect they accepted a bid from Davis Construction during their October 18, 2018, special meeting.
Considering there was no ordinance for bidding, and they never published any requests for bids, it appears certain members of this Village believe the laws don't matter, nor does the advice of their legal counsel. As we understand it, the "bids" recieved were not sealed bids nor were they opened in a public meeting.
Even more concerning, according to the Clerk, there are no specifications for the building.
"There is not anything in writing as far as specifications. Ron and/or myself spoke with each company and told them what was wanted and they bid accordingly."
So not only do we have certain Village officials ignoring the law, they voted to build a building spending your tax dollars based off of a bogus bidding process tied only to a "conversation" and no specifications?
May we suggest these people all resign from office?