Lowest bidder bypassed again by Cook County government

 
 
Published: 1/30/2009 12:02 AM

For the second time in two months, Cook County government today is poised to pass up the lowest bid on a security contract.

In both cases, the contract was given or is being given to Whitfield Security System over Moore Security, under allegations that Moore is not meeting bidding requirements.

However, in a separate contract, county administrators recommended that Moore, the exact same bidder it said was unqualified in the other two contracts, receive the award. Administrators abruptly pulled that item before the Dec. 3 county board meeting, but not before some commissioners noticed the inconsistency and began asking questions.

In addition, county administrators now admit that the first reason they gave for disqualifying Moore from the first contract - that the company wasn't minority and women-business compliant - was false.

The confusing set of bids and disqualifications began at the board's Dec. 3 meeting. There, the board considered a bid for security for the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk's Office. Moore bid $258,566 while Whitfield bid $272,386.90. In a Nov. 7 letter, Contract Compliance Administrator Betty Hancock Perry told the purchasing agent Carmen Triche-Colvin that Moore "has been found to be nonresponsive to the (Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises) Ordinance."

But at the very same Dec. 3 meeting, administrators were poised to recommend that Moore receive a contract for security services for the Adult Probation Department for which it was again the low bidder. How, asked Commissioner Michael Quigley, could Moore not be compliant in the first case, but be the approved minority-owned company on the second contract?

Although administrators didn't admit it Dec. 3, the allegation that Moore wasn't MBE/WBE complaint was false, Perry acknowledged.

"That was an error," said Betty Hancock Perry, head of the county's contract compliance office, on Thursday. "They were (compliant with MBE/WBE)."

Somehow, Hancock Perry explained, the company's failure to meet wage requirements got inadvertently converted to MBE/WBE noncompliance.

Perry did not announce that at the Dec. 3 meeting, however. Instead, purchasing agent Carmen Triche Colvin told board members Dec. 3 Moore was disqualified for yet another reason: it was not meeting wage requirements under the Builders, Owners & Managers Association guidelines that the county follows.

Colvin said on Dec. 3 that Moore had originally been deemed compliant in that area, but was re-examined by the county's human resources department after competing bidder Whitfield lodged a complaint against Moore's bid.

Despite that explanation, Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman remained unconvinced, calling the tortured explanations "nonsense" and voting against Whitfield. The contract passed anyway.

The specifics of exactly how Moore is not meeting wage and benefit issues remains a mystery. Despite requests from the Daily Herald since early this week for an explanation, administrators have not provided Human Resources chief Joe Sova, who makes the wage compliance determination, for an explanation.

And if Moore isn't paying proper wages, it is a mistake the county is late in discovering - the company already has several existing county contracts.

The explanation on wages remains key because Moore is poised to be bypassed again today on a much larger contract because of the wage issue. That contract, for security at the county hospital clinics, is worth nearly $1 million. Moore bid $833,942.04. But county administrators again are recommending Whitfield, which bid $866,412.64. Oscar Whitfield, owner of Whitfield Security System, could not be reached for comment. The owner of Moore Security declined comment.

The contract is up before the Cook County Health and Hospital System Board, which meets at 7:30 a.m. today at John H. Stroger Hospital.