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Submitted by a guest contributor who serves as a public-safety dispatch center executive in Illinois.

  • If a fire chief submitted a purchase order to buy an airplane on a sole-source, no bid contract for $7M and got it approved…
  • And then submitted an emergency change order for another $6.5M for a bigger airplane (’cause he really, really needs one), and got that approved, too…
  • Then decided all he really wanted was some new luggage and some airline tickets for four years’ worth of travel…
  • But then used the total approved money ($13.5M) to buy airline tickets and luggage for almost every firefighter in the county…
  • Then comes up short and asks for more money (another $7M) to give every firefighter luggage and airline tickets for four years’ worth of travel…
  • And, by the way, the luggage is from the same sole source, no-bid vendor even though there are plenty of choices for luggage these days…
  • So…the original PO is stretched from $7M to $20M and the Chief still doesn’t own an airplane, but he now has some cool luggage……WOW!

Wouldn’t that raise some concerns? Well, maybe not in DuPage County, Illinois.

Here is a synopsis of the purchasing scheme that DuPage ETSB (Emergency Telephone System Board) is using to get police and fire agencies on the state’s STARCOM21 radio system. This should raise some questions.

1) SEPTEMBER 2006 CONTRACT AND PURCHASE ORDER:  (Keep in mind, it is this PO that is apparently being acted upon concurrently by the DuPage ETSB. (see attached)

Features:

  • Sole-source-no-bid purchase of a 9-site (nine base station/tower equipment), 5-channel (frequencies used) trunked radio infrastructure system.
  • $7.055M for base-station equipment only. (Note: no mobile units, no portable units, no per-unit-per-month air time.)
  • While the state’s STARCOM21 Master Contract is used as support to waive all bidding, the STARCOM21 Master Contract has little to do with the purchase of the kind of infrastructure that DuPage supposedly bought. The Master Contract with Illinois Central Management Services (TCVS-1500) is silent on TDMA base station equipment listed in DuPage’s contract with Motorola.
  • The STARCOM21 Master Contract calls for monthly user fees, yet the DuPage contract and PO are silent on monthly user fees.
  • If the STARCOM21 Master Contract was really being used, the PO should have included a definitive number of radios to connect to the state’s STARCOM21 system, and which per-unit monthly fee schedule was to be used ($30/month, $35/month, etc).
  • The state’s STARCOM21 Master Contract allows for the purchase of user radios, but none were being purchased in the original DuPage contract or PO.
  • The 2006 DuPage PO listed TDMA – a technology that produces 2 conversations per radio channel for efficiency. This technology did not exist then, and it is still not yet available for delivery today (Project 25 Phase 2). Yet, this technology was mentioned in the sole source justification letter (attached) as a prime reason to choose Motorola as the vendor.

The required determination letter that justifies the sole-source-no-bid nature of the contract had many flaws: (see attached)

  • It was dated before any public discussion or direction from the board. Who directed this letter to be written, and what action from the ETSB prompted this letter to be written?
  • It is factually inaccurate in at least 5 areas.
  • It cites the STARCOM21 Master Contract, yet the DuPage PO and contract with the vendor has little to do with the CMS STARCOM21 Master Contract
  • The ETSB staff was apparently instructed to draft the contract, issue the purchase order, draft an ordinance to waive bidding requirements, and negotiate with the vendor – all outside of open, public meetings.  Who did this?

2) JUNE 2008 CHANGE ORDER TO THE ORIGINAL CONTRACT:

  • A Special Emergency Meeting was called in June 2008 to add more base station sites and frequencies.
  • Unallocated funds had to be moved around in this emergency session to be able to execute the change order. Was this expense not anticipated in routine budget planning?
  • The change order was over $6.5M. Some have the opinion that this change order was contrary to state law (criminal code), and does not follow the intent or letter of the DuPage Procurement Ordinance, if, in fact, the ETSB is subject to its use as a purchasing guideline. The Purchasing Ordinance certainly allows for sole-source contracts, but at the very least Motorola should be considered an “offeror” as defined and follow those rules as they pertain to contracts spread across multiple Fiscal Years. Four+ years have gone by and nothing to show for it.
  • See: http://www.dupageco.org/emplibrary/Purchasing%20Ordinance%20OFI-005B-%20final%20version.pdf
  • Again, no portable or mobile radios are mentioned, and no air time is mentioned.

In the interim since 2008, there were other activities that included:

  • Hansen Professional Services for site acquisition and preparation (not mentioned in in 2006), currently being paid monthly for engineering work.
  • Hiring of a project manager (not mentioned in 2006).
  • Hiring of an RF engineer (not mentioned in 2006 although the contract included engineering services from Motorola).
  • Motorola requested significant “BETA testing” on the proposed TDMA equipment – this should be disconcerting if a product was “sold” to the county in 2006 that did not exist, and Motorola was asking the county to assist in its very development.

3) CURRENT ACTIVITIES:

  • The same purchase order from September 2006 is now being used for a significantly different scope of work – yet still “lives” under the questionable sole-source-no-bid contract and equally questionable sole-source justification letter.
  • There is now no plan to purchase base stations as called out in the original 2006 contract or the 2008 emergency change order that expanded the number of base stations and channels.
  • The current plan, and anticipated change orders, now shows a purchase many portable radios for local agencies – never mentioned in the 2006 initial contract or 2008 change order yet sole-soured from Motorola.
  • The current plan, and anticipated change orders, puts a scheme in place to pay for four years’ worth of user monthly user fees for local agencies to use State’s STARCOM21 system.
  • The current plan has site upgrades (civil work) for two added sites.
  • The current plan is a complete departure from the $13+M committed funds from 2006 and 2008 and now appears to require about another $7M to reach the $20M as presented by ETSB leadership. http://dupageradio.org/
  • The current plan is now showing a total of $20M expenditures that have little to do with the original scope of work by any definition. The DuPage Procurement Ordinance calls for the assurance that the money is available for a project before it can be approved. Was $20M available for the September 2006 contract? Look up “stringing of POs”.
  • The current plan calls for portable radios in the $6,000 range when competitive radios – which can work fine on the STARCOM21 system – range from $1,800-$5,000 – but since the whole plan is “hiding” behind a questionable sole-source scheme, the participating agencies will never have a choice or opportunity to save precious tax-payer money. The ETSB will stubbornly fight any form of open or competitive bidding, unless the local agencies (or their board) step up and speak out.
  • The September 2006 PO, the flawed sole-source justification letter, and now-meaningless June 2008 Change Order should be found to be faulty and inoperative for the current direction the ETSB is taking since the scope of work now has nothing to do with the letter or intent of the 2006 contract and 2008 change order. The availability of competitive radios should make it clear that DuPage no longer needs to operate behind the thin veil of a sole-source contract.
  • Motorola has been paid in excess of $2M in preparation of the work listed in 2006 and 2008 agreements and equipment used in the BETA test (the ETSB paid for the equipment used in the then-fictitious TDMA product development). Will DuPage recover this money and start over, or just “roll” the money to the purchase of portable radios, return the BETA base stations – all of which is well outside of the scope of the original contract?
  • DuPage is negotiating a multi-year contract with Motorola that is directly hinged to the STARCOM21 Master Contract set to be replaced September 2011. What special insight does DuPage have with a state contract that starts in “year 2” of their own agreement Motorola? How can either party bargain in good faith for features of a new Master Contract that does not exist yet? STARCOM21 contracts must always be a three-entity agreement: Motorola, DuPage, and Illinois Central Management Services.

Attorneys for involved agencies may want to review the following to make sure whatever happens next is in line with current legislation and county purchasing rules:

The media looked into the $23M sole-source problem at Chicago’s OEMC, and looked into Cook County’s Project Shield problem, but is anyone looking at DuPage? Is the vendor ever at fault in these schemes? If those responsible with government oversight turn the other way, we will see this scheme replicated all over the state.

Now, go back and re-read the first paragraph because that’s pretty much what is happening in DuPage County, Illinois.

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DuPage County Sole Source Determination Letter (08/15/2006)

DuPage County ETSB PO to Motorola TDMA-TRS (08/30/2006)