Commenter Mark has taken the time to prepare a transcript of that part of the Wednesday, August 23, 2017, discussion in the McHenry County Board meeting between Edgar County Watchdog Kirk Allen and County Administrator Peter Austin.
Mark’s analysis of the meeting and the transcript follow:
There are two main parts to the article.
1. A Request for Qualifications for brokerage services to “..assist the county in outlining the options, lease or other disposition…” of Valley Hi, the county owned nursing home.
The information in quotes was from the county issued Request for Qualifications RFQ 17-37 found at the county purchasing website and here:
2. A little known entity of local government called the Emergency Telephone System Board (ETSB), which is in involved with 911 service.
Kirk Allen of Edgar County Watchdogs is the preeminent watchdog expert in Illinois on ETSB’s and (along with his partner John Kraft) on local government in general.
First is the process the county has chosen to use to select a broker to explore the leasing of, disposing of, or other options for Valley Hi.
That bleeds into a conversation about ETSB.
Let’s start at the 58:30 point in the video where a teacher asks Craig Wilcox about the Request for Qualifications.
Time permitting, it’s worthwhile to watch the entire video.
Craig Wilcox gives his perspective on the Request for Qualification process then asks for the Peter Austin’s opinion.
Peter Austin replies at 59:55 – “In this instance there probably wouldn’t be any expenditure ever, because it’s a broker, if it ever came to be, would be compensated through the lease.”
County Board member Jeff Thorsen at 1:00:00 – “Which, when you’re not really, really seriously considering getting to that state where you actually have a transaction, you’re really putting that poor broker out to come out, do some work, set up a RFQ, spend some time that they could be doing to spend some time to put some food on their table.”
Kirk Allen at 1:00:30 – “Regards to your RFQ and this whole process, if it comes to the board for resolution to vote on and you have one person to select from, how are you getting around the requirement when you’re spending more than $20,000, or $30,000 by statute, of not having it bid out?”
Jeff Thorsen at 1:00:43 – “Peter?”
Peter Austin at 1:00:50 – “First of all, that would be Legal Qualifications for Professional Services.
We’d be fine there.”
Kirk Allen at 1:00:57 – “Professional Services of what?”
There’s a Professional Services Selection Act, and that’s not listed under that.”
Peter Austin at 1:01:09 – “Sir, we would be following a very legal purchasing process, if we continued down this path.”
Kirk Allen at 1:01:13 – “That’s not what I said.
You said it was under the Professional Services.
There’s a Professional Services Selection Act, and it lists three criteria, three occupations…”
Peter Austin at 1:01:21 – “Surveyors?, Architects, …”
Kirk Allen at 1:01:23 – “and Engineers.
A broker is not one of those three.”
Peter Austin at 1:01:29 – “Fair.
And that’s why we’re not using that Professional Services angle.
We don’t even need to go out to bid.
This is out to bid.
This is a public request for …”
Kirk Allen at 1:01:36 – “Oh, you’re not going out for bid.
You’re going out for…”
Peter Austin at 1:01:37 – “It’s a Request for Qualifications Sir.”
Kirk Allen at 1:01:38 – “There’s a big difference for Request for Proposals versus…”
Peter Austin at 1:01:42 – “This is not a Request for Proposal.”
Kirk Allen at 1:01:48 – “So it’s a Request for Questions?
Peter Austin at 10:01:49 – “Qualifications.”
Kirk Allen at 1:01:50 – “Qualifications.
And my question, when it comes to the board as a resolution [at that moment Peter Austin turns to speak to two Sheriff Deputies] to hire that contractor, what was the bidding process?
It wasn’t followed.”
[Peter Austin stops speaking to the police officers and turns back to the room.]
John Kraft at 1:02:03 – “And you said there was a committee to select, a committee of two, what were, where were there…”
Craig Wilcox at 1:02:10 – “We don’t know what that evaluation committee was going….”
John Kraft at 1:02:11 – “Where was that? in the meeting minutes.
And all that stuff has to be open in public.
Not in private individual, in somebody’s back office sweatshop, it doesn’t happen that way.”
Craig Wilcox at 1:02:23 – “That’s the concern.”
So Peter, would you like to close down…”
Peter Austin at 1:02:30 – “No.
Craig, staff has a very prominent role in all sorts of Professional Services or other bids.
We have a process here, it’s quite legal, and quite professional, and I’d love for you to take a look at our purchasing ordinance.
And we have the ability as staff to make recommendations to committee for a dump truck, professional services, or a broker, or whatever it is.
Now, in many instances, the committee wants to be more involved.
In this instance the committee certainly would be more involved.
It’s not one size fits all.”
Kirk Allen at 1:03:04 – “Oh I understand that totally.
What’s your position here?
Are you a board member?”
Peter Austin at 1:03:08 – “I’m the County Administrator.”
Kirk Allen at 1:03:10 – “County Administrator.
Well, in regards to a professional process and everything, i just pointed out numerous illegal actions going on with your ETSB.
So I appreciate your pointing out, that, you know, hey, it’s all been legal.
But there are some things that are not.”
Peter Austin at 1:03:25 – “I’m not familiar with what you are referring to.
You know that they are their own local government and they report to the …”
Kirk Allen at 1:03:31 – “Actually, they report to the county board.”
Peter Austin at 1:03:32 – “Correct.”
Kirk Allen at 1:03:33 – “They are under the county board.
They answer to the State’s Attorney for legal counsel.
And they are spending money outside legal authority.”
Peter Austin at 1:03:38 – “They report to their own board.
Kirk Allen at 1:03:42 – “Right.
And there’s numerous AG opinions.
I’ll be happy to forward them to you.”
Peter Austin at 1:03:45 – “You don’t need to do that.”
Kirk Allen at 1:03:46 – “They answer to the county board.
They can’t be sued or sue.
And that’s the key criteria as far as are they an agency.
They can’t sue or be sued.
If I want to sue your ETSB I sue the County, because they are county government.
They are not their own independent government.”
Peter Austin at 1:04:02 – “The ETSB consists of a mixture of county board appointees…”
Kirk Allen at 1:04:07 – “You bet.”
Peter Austin at 1:04:08 – “…and village appointees.”
Kirk Allen at 1:04:09 – “You betcha.
I understand ETSB inside and out.
They are not a separate local government.
That is not true.”
Peter Austin at 1:04:14 – “Ok.”
Kirk Allen at 1:04:15 – “They cannot sue or be sued.
Ask your State’s Attorney.
This agency would be the one that gets sued.
So when you tell me…”
Peter Austin at 1:04:22 – “I’m not telling you anything sir.”
Kirk Allen at 1:04:24 – “You did.
You told me that this was a legal process, that you have all these professionals, in essence, you are telling me you know what you are doing.
I just gave you examples that somebody doesn’t know what they are doing.”
The meeting goes on for a bit.