Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County, IL. (ECWd) –
We first exposed alleged Commissioner Denise Williams’ false and misleading comments during the last meeting in this article. After listening to it again, we must thank her for exposing yet more problems with the insider no-bid contract issued by the former Superintendent of the VAC.
“This contract was sought and approved under the Will County Procurement Code for Professional Services”
Are we to believe what she said as true?
“PROFESSIONAL SERVICES. The services of a person possessing a high degree of professional skill where the ability or fitness of the individual plays an important part and the primary reason for that purchase is the service provided and the skills are primarily mental as opposed to manual. PROFESSIONAL SERVICE means, but is not limited to, services rendered in the practice of law, accounting, engineering, medicine, architecture, dentistry, clinical psychology and technology. For example: development of software specifically designed to meet the needs of a county office or department. The purchase of shrink-wrap software is not.”
When we call out a unit of government for not bidding out certain services we hear a laundry list of excuses, but the two most common are that professional services do not require bidding, and their lawyer told them they don’t have to. That is where the conversation should begin, not end.
While professional services do not require bidding, we do not believe a marketing campaign would qualify for a professional service based on numerous court and AG opinions on the subject matter of what qualifies as “Professional Services.”
For starters, any public body that resists putting things out for bid should read the court’s view on bidding.
“The purposes for requiring public bodies to engage in competitive bidding are to invite competition, to guard against favoritism, improvidence, extravagance, fraud and corruption and to secure the best work or supplies at the lowest price practicable. (O’Hare Express, Inc. v. City of Chicago (1992), 235 Ill. App.3d 202, 208; Smith v. F.W.D. Corp. (1982), 106 Ill. App.3d 429, 436 N.E.2d 35; 10 E. McQuillin, Municipal Corporations § 29.29, at 302 (3d ed. 1981).)”
How many elements of concern raised by the court ruling above do we find with the Will County VAC’s contract with Hey G Consulting for $495,000.00?
According to the records we obtained, the Superintendent claimed: “A strategic marketing campaign is needed to help our community become informed, help our service providers expand their reach, and help Will County veterans and community members recover from COVID-19.”
This is where things take an interesting turn. The claim made in the pitch for the money was to inform the community, help service providers, expand their reach, and help veterans and community members recover from COVID-19. They even went to the point of naming veterans who had taken their own lives and made an emphasis on the mental health issues veterans are facing.
Reading the record, we find it disturbing to find the former Superintendent of the VAC believed it was more important to spend money on marketing rather than actual services to the Veterans. Disturbing because her letter focused extensively on mental health as the reasoning for needing the money. Please don’t take our word for it, read her letter yourself at this link.
If we are to believe her letter, then where were the questions when this document was provided in the decision-making process? Why are they not focusing ANY request for money on the Mental Wellness Specific side of the issue? That is where the real challenges are at, yet ignored, except to use it as part of the sales pitch to push $495,000.00 to a friend of the superintendent for a marketing campaign in a no-bid contract by claiming it was a Professional Service.
When the former Superintendent claims, “They (sp) system is overwhelmed by need.” when speaking about mental health, one would think the primary focus would be seeking funding for the actual mental health services needed rather than a marketing campaign. Her own words point to marketing that failed.
“In March, VAC partnered with Hey G Consulting, who assisted the VAC with Facebook & Instagram content. The results of our partnership doubled our social media outreach & helped maintain VAC clientele numbers throughout the shutdown.”
A successful marketing campaign is not about doubling social media outreach but rather increasing clientele numbers, which did not happen under the prior program. Williams claimed the money could not be used for anything other than marketing. Interesting how she failed to recognize the real need was in fact for actual services to veterans as confirmed in the actual sales pitch provided by the former Superintendent. Had they asked for the money for Mental Wellness services it could have then been used for that. However, doing that would have prevented another no-bid contract to the former Superintendent’s friend.
We understand the FBI is currently involved in the investigation of this matter. We will continue updating our findings as there is a treasure trove of malfeasance yet to be exposed.