City’s RFP Doesn’t TCB


When is an RFP (Request for Proposal) process really just a charade?

When it’s drafted in such a loosey goosey way that it practically invites non-compliant responses.  And then when it is administered in a way that makes the whole process look like nothing more than cover for an already done deal.

That appears to be the case with the City’s first-ever RFP process for the 2012 iteration of that certain 3-day food, music and shopping event which can’t even be called “Taste of Park Ridge” (“TOPR”) anymore unless it’s run by that merry band of brazen opportunists behind private corporation Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”).
How did Park Ridge lose control of the TOPR name?
Last year, when it started to look like the new City Council might actually consider putting the event out for bid/RFP, Taste Inc.’s sharpies quickly and quietly trademarked the TOPR name.  Their strategy was pretty transparent, perhaps the most transparent thing about Taste Inc. since it was handed its no-bid, no-accountability monopoly by then-mayor Howard Frimark and a compliant City Council back in June 2005: discourage any potential competitors from bidding for a TOPR by preventing them from calling it TOPR.
And the Tastees were right.  Only two other organizations out of the 10-plus who obtained RFP packages submitted proposals, and one of those was immediately – and properly – disqualified because it sought a significant up-front cash contribution by the City, contrary to the express terms of the RFP.  So far, so good.

But things took a turn for the kinky when Hock (and, purportedly, his staff) concluded that Taste Inc. provided a better proposal than runner-up Absolute Productions Services, even though an examination of both proposals reveals that neither of them fully complied with the RFP; and that Taste Inc.’s proposal actually fell short of Absolute’s on three of the most important RFP requirements.

Instead of the required $100,000 Letter of Credit to secure the contractor’s performance, Taste Inc. offered only a $20,000 LC; and Taste Inc. did not unequivocally commit to reimbursing the City for the estimated $20,000 of service costs contained in the RFP’s, instead proposing to “meet with the event manager and/or the heads of each of [the City] departments in an effort to itemize and reduce these costs.”  Absolute, on the other hand, agreed to both requirements unconditionally.

One other crucial RFP requirement was “Revenue Sharing,” which the RFP ineptly described as: “Contractor shall abide by a revenue sharing arrangement as agreed upon by both parties (to be determined).”  While Absolute’s proposal offered a vague “mutually agreed amount based on the gross earnings” that it subsquently clarified as starting with the first dollar of profit,  Taste Inc.’s proposal stated its “plans to share with the City of Park Ridge 50% of any Revenue over Expenses,” but only “[a]fter event perpetuation has been funded.” [Emphasis added].

“Event perpetuation,” as contemplated by Taste Inc., means the first $20,000 of profit which it plans to add to its already-hefty $80,000 bankroll – most of which apparently was accumulated during its first four years running TOPR (from 2005 through 2008) when it was operating as a for-profit corporation even as it was insisting to the City and the public that it was a not-for-profit.  So before the City gets its first-ever taste (pun intended) of TOPR profits, Taste Inc. will have amassed a cool $100 grand that it can spend on future TOPRs…or on such things as lobbying, promotions and even political campaigns.

The practical effect of Taste’s own “event perpetuation” requirement is revealed in a December 29, 2011 e-mail to Hock from Taste Inc.’s latest spokesman, Mel P. Thillens, in which Thillens admits that any 50/50 profit-sharing is unlikely to happen because “revenue over expenses and perpetuation should be close to zero” – an assertion corroborated by Taste Inc.’s 2010 revenues over expenses that showed a “net” profit (without the $20,000 taken out) of only $8,398.

In other words, Taste Inc.’s 2012 projections and its 2010 historicals demonstrate that its revenue sharing proposal is just one big puff of smoke, without the customary mirrors.

On Monday night, however, a lack of mirrors didn’t stop Alds. Sweeney (1st), DiPietro (2nd), Smith (3rd) and Bernick (6th) from aiding and abetting Hock’s orchestration of the RFP process for Taste Inc.’s benefit, as the smoke alone was sufficient to obscure any tell-tale, Chicago-style winks or nods.  Despite the glaring flaws in Taste Inc.’s proposal, those four overcame the opposition of Alds. Raspanti (4th), Knight (5th) and Maloney (7th) and authorized Hock to negotiate a contract with Taste Inc. – which, in this case, seems like authorizing Elmer Fudd to negotiate a carrot contract with Bugs Bunny. 

After the way Hock botched the RFP, we can’t wait to see what his contract will look like.

But the good news is that, unless Hock negotiates it away, the City should finally get reimbursed for the approximately $20,000 in annual police, fire and public works services it has been contributing to Taste Inc.’s private treasury for the past seven summers so that Taste Inc. could build its $80,000 fund. 

So getting Park Ridge taxpayers this $20,000 expense reimbursement from a heretofore intransigent Taste Inc. took 8 years, a reduction in the size of the Council from 14 to 7 aldermen, a change of mayors, and the replacement of a majority of aldermen.  Oh, yeah…and a federal gun charge against one of Taste Inc.’s founders and leaders.

There’s got to be a better way.

To read or post comments, click on title.