Is More “Bad” Government On Tap For Tonight At City Hall?


Tonight’s Park Ridge City Council Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting has a few interesting agenda items, if only because all of them have the the ability to raise additional questions about how credibly and competently the City makes decisions on basic management matters.

The first of those items is a revision to City Council Policy No. 43, which governs how the City manages its litigation.  According to City Manager Jim Hock’s Agenda Cover Memorandum, the City has used two law firms for its litigation despite there never having been “an official Council action designating those firms to represent the City in litigation, so staff added some proposed language regarding the issue” for the Council’s consideration.

The lack of any “official Council action” on selecting law firms is especially troubling in light of the fact that the City spent in excess of $400,000 on attorneys’ fees during FY2010-11. 

Unfortunately, this situation had to be raised by the Council – in this case, Ald. Jim Smith (3rd) – because City staff, starting with the City Mgr., apparently didn’t seem to realize there even was any problem.  Equally unfortunately, there’s nothing in the proposed new policy that requires the City to utilize an RFP process to see how good a deal it can get on legal services from firms other than the two who have enjoyed their no-bid monopoly on City business all these years.  

Even more problematic is that the new policy still seems to contemplate the City’s using more than one law firm, with Hock making the decision on which firm to use – despite no evidence Hock has any expertise whatsoever in that regard, and despite the lack of any express, objective criteria in the policy for selecting the firm(s) who will be assigned what work. 

Let’s call that a big mistake and a bad idea.   

The second item of interest is an oldie but not so goodie: the approval of more payments of public funds to private corporations for various poorly-described services at undisclosed prices.

According to Hock’s Agenda Cover Memorandum, he “requested information from each of the groups identifying the number of Park Ridge residents served by [these] organizations thus far this year.”  That’s a typical half-baked Hock game plan, and it got a typical response from those private groups who seem more concerned about getting public funds from the City trough than about actually delivering provable cost-effective results to provable Park Ridge residents – as demonstrated by even a cursory look at the information those organizations provided, which fails miserably when it comes to providing the City with the information necessary to determining exactly what services Park Ridge residents are getting and what the City is paying for each type and delivery of those services.

The Maine Center for Mental Health claims that it treated 398 Park Ridge residents for a variety of maladies, 144 of which are for something called “Other conditions that may be the focus of treatment” and 87 of which are “Other/not classified in database.”  In other words, the Maine Center wants the City to continue committing thousands of tax dollars to pay for some undisclosed treatment of undefined conditions allegedly suffered by unidentified Park Ridge residents.  Brilliant!

Not to be outdone, Advocate Health Center’s meals-on-wheels program claims to be serving “25-30 people daily in the Park Ridge area.”  Not necessarily in Park Ridge itself but just in the “Park Ridge area” – which could mean unincorporated Maine Township, Des Plaines or Niles.  Consequently, the meals-on-wheels program doesn’t provide the necessary information by which the City can conclusively determine how many meals are going to Park Ridge residents and what the City is actually paying per meal.

That leaves the Center of Concern, which claims to have provided a variety of services – including “Income Tax Preparation,” “Employment Counseling,” “Financial Counseling,” “Will Preparation” and “Legal Counseling” – to yet more alleged-but-unidentified Park Ridge residents, at no particular identifiable cost per service.

This is no way to responsibly fund services that only a vocal minority appears to consider “essential City services.”  Not only is it irresponsible, but it doesn’t even comply with City Council Policy No. 6, which imposes stringent requirements on the expenditure of public funds for private services that the Council never has satisfied when giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars to these organizations over the past several years. 

But, then again, why should the aldermen worry about adhering to the requirements of a Council policy when it’s so much fun to give away taxpayer money to private organizations without any meaningful accountability?

The third agenda item of interest is the RFP for the Taste of Park Ridge (“TOPR”), on which action was deferred by the COW two weeks ago because the matter was not posted on the agenda as an “action item” and, therefore, not appropriate for a COW decision on Hock’s and his compliant staff’s “done deal” giveaway of TOPR to the incumbent Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”) despite Taste Inc.’s proposal not being objectively as that of competitor Absolute Production Services (“Absolute”).

After the two-week hiatus, Hock and staff are still recommending Taste Inc. over Absolute even though neither proposal satisfied the City’s RFP requirements, and even though Taste Inc.’s proposal: (a) does not unequivocally agree to reimburse the City for all of the City’s approximately $20,000 of direct and indirect costs, unlike Absolute’s; (b) provides only a $20,000 bond instead of the $100,000 bond the RFP required, and which Absolute offers; and (c) provides a revenue-sharing proposal of a 50/50 split of net revenue, but only after Taste Inc. achieves its $20,000 contribution to its current $80,000 “event perpetuation fund,” a threshold which Taste Inc.’s Mel Thillens (in an e-mail to Hock back on December 29 which Hock may have kept secret even from the Council until now) admits is unlikely to be reached.

In other words, folks, this RFP process – as drawn up and administered by Hock – looks like a charade bordering on a fraud, with Taste Inc. as the “chosen” beneficiary notwithstanding the various shortcomings of its response to the City’s RFP when compared to Absolute’s, which itself is inadequate. 

If this were a legitimate process, all three proposals would be rejected as non-conforming;  the RFP would be revised to make it perfectly clear as to what terms are required and in what form; and it would be re-published with the mandate that any non-conformity will disqualify the respondent.   

But at 505 Butler Place, “legitimate” is a very subjective term.  And, as always, subjective terms rarely, if ever, benefit the taxpayers.

To read or post comments, click on title.

19 comments so far

Interesting that you babble about this, while working for a law firm that specializes in Municipal work. Looking to get a bid in for your firm Mr. Trinza?

EDITOR’S NOTE: No more interesting than the fact that this blog has always advocated for competitive bidding and RFPs, irrespective of who the prospective bidders might be.

But if you’re against RFPs and competitive bidding – and in favor of sweetheart deals without RFPs or bidding, as has so often been the case with the City – just say so.

I do not recall the city going out to bid or for an RFP for legal services, either for its general work (that Klein Thorpe & Jenkins does) or the work done by Judge James & Kujawa. Was that work ever bid out and, if so, when? I agree with you that the idea or policy for bidding out this work every so often should not have to come from the elected officials.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t recall exactly how many years ago the last RFP or bidding process occurred, nor do we know if there EVER was any bidding or RFP for the attorneys who have represented the City in the police and firefighters union negotiations. We think those services should be bid out/RFPed no less than every 3-4 years, even if ongoing lawsuits might need to remain with the attorneys who started working on them in order to avoid wasted fees on a new firm ramping up.

Holy cow. No pun intended. And I thought throwing in the towel on Chicago, with its politics, shenanigans and mind-boggling bureaucracies, for a smaller town might mean more efficiency and accountability when it comes to government. I feel pretty naive. Sheesh.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, at least our local government mismanagement appears to be of the ham-and-egg variety, not the boxcar-number variety of Chicago’s culture of corruption.

On the other hand, a town of 37,000 fairly homogenous, upper middle-class people within 8 square miles should be a lot easier to govern well than a place like Chicago. But when our City can’t even run an RFP process correctly (or, as to legal services, at all) and can’t manage the outsourcing of services to private corporations effectively, it’s pretty discouraging.

So Bernick showed up? I’m sure his contribution was noteworthy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: After a few week absence, he returned in fine snit.

After missing, what, four meeting in a row Bernick surely did show up in a snit. What a narcissistic boob. Rumor had it he was going to “step down” for some reason or another. Guess not, huh? Too bad.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rumors like that tend to be wrong.

Anon 4:06

So says you. I love Bernick.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Different strokes for different folks. But out of a sense of prurient curiosity, we have to ask: Why?

Anon@1223 must be Mrs. Bernick. I’m waiting for Bernick to try to amend the taxi ordinance because he doesn’t like pink.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let’s not assume facts not in evidence.


Because he, unlike some (Schmidt, Knight), is not walking lock step with sour pusses like you.

BTW 1:27, I’ve seen Mrs. Bernick. She is hot. I can honestly say that I am no Mrs. Bernick.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Forget walking in lockstep with Schmidt, Knight or this blog – Bernick can’t walk in lockstep with himself! When you figure out what principles and policies (if any) he actually stands for – and consistently votes for – please let us know. And then, by all means, tell him.

Bernick is gutless. What a baby. Go around telling everyone you are quitting. Go AWOL for a few weeks and then show up again as some savior who decided to stay.

Can’t cry wolf again Tommy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again, this “telling everyone you are quitting” sounds like more “facts” not in evidence. Perhaps he was just taking some “away” time to forge his own coherent philosophy of government. Or not.

Speaking of absenses. Why didn’t Mayor Schmidt wait until after the Budget process to have his hip replaced?

Oh I know, I know, pick me; That way he can abdicate the work to the Council again and then veto the final product.

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to last week’s TribLocal story: “Schmidt said he hopes to return to the council’s chamber at City Hall…for the Feb. 20 meeting, but will definitely be back by March 5, when he plans to give his ‘State of the City’ speech.” That’s two months before the budget deadline. Plus, the TribLocal story also reported that while recuperating he will be participating in meetings by telephone, presumably while watching on WOW.

So, Mr/Ms. Anon, you get an F for knowledge of City government. From now on, don’t raise your hand unless you actually know the answer.

There are a variety of things that I have had questions about related to the Mayor. Having said that, throwing out conspiracy theories related to when he decides to have hip replacement surgery is…well….STUPID!!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, just because he can barely walk doesn’t mean he couldn’t have waited another few months until after the budget was finished…it’s not like it’s an aortic aneurysm or a quadruple bypass.

Why was Alderman Bernick saying he would resign? Mayor Schmidt is going to be on powerful drugs after his surgery. I hope he stays away for months. We don’t need a drugged out Mayor taking part is public business.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have no knowledge that Ald. Bernick said that, so why does it matter.

Given how the City Council governs, the mayor’s being on “powerful drugs” might actually be a great equalizer.

The bloggers here are saying they heard rumors Alderman Bernick could resign. Are you saying you know those rumors are untrue? There is no reason for anyone to think he would think of resigning? Mayor Schmidt couldn’t be a worse Mayor while he is drugged up. The drugs could help him be a better person. He needs something.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t know if they are true or not, and we don’t care – if only because there’s so little practical difference between Bernick’s absence and his presence.

Given the way the City Council operates, the “something” Schmidt probably needs most is a higher tolerance for the absurd.

I still don’t know how to feel about the police station.

While some concerns are understandable, i don’t get the fuss about the jail space.

Also while I get seperating arrestees from witnesses or others who vist the station for whatever reasons, I still can’t get why it’s an issue now.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t get it either, Mike, and the PowerPoint presentation Monday night was such a farce that we will be doing a post on it within the next week.

Mayor Schmidt would appoint someone to replace Alderman Bernick if he resigned. Mayor Schmidt appointed Alderman Sweeny after he won for Mayor. It sounds as if you need to have explanations and you get an F for knowledge of City government. From now on, don’t raise your hand unless you actually know the answer. The absurd thing about what is said on this blog is that all the older Aldermen were always wrong when Schmidt disagreed with them. All the new Aldermen are always wrong when Mayor Schmidt disagrees with them. Mayor Schmidt is only wrong when he disagrees with the bloggers here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, we can’t help it if the City Councils and mayors for at least the 10 years prior to the Schmidt Adminstration veritably sucked – as evidenced by things like their neglect of the City’s infrastructure, their posting of 8 years of General Fund deficits totaling $12 million-plus and only one year of surplus despite raising taxes an average of 3%+ annually, their creation of the cash-sucking Uptown TIF, their $650,000 non-refundable “investment” in the Peotone airport, etc.

As for Frimark’s departed alderdwarfs Allegretti, Bach, Carey and Ryan, on their good days they were lucky if they could find Col. Mustard in the Conservatory with the candlestick. On their many bad days, they were playing Monopoly on a Stratego board.

Just wondering if anyone knows if this Albert Galus is related to the new principal of St. Raymond grade school in Mount Prospect, Andrew Galus.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And that’s relevant to this post or Park Ridge government generally how?

Hey did does anyone know why Schmidt needs his hip replaced? Did he fall off his bike riding home for Holihans?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gin doesn’t agree with you, does it, Zippy?

I love Stratego.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A highly under-rated game.

Allow me. My hip started to hurt 3-4 years ago. Like many guys, I ignored the prpoblem until about a year ago when the pain started to affect my ability to get around So I got it checked out.

I was told then that I would need a hip replacement. I continued to put that off until last fall when the problem intensified. At that time, the doctor said I could not wait any longer or else I risked severe back problems which would be permanent. January 30 was the first available date.

For those concerned about my coherence and cognitive abilities due to medication, the next budget meeting is not until February 8, and I should be off the “hard stuff” by then. If not, the budget process is in the best of hands with Alderman Knight and Finance Director Stutts at the helm. I will be back to full strength long before any final vote is taken.

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