Hock’s Draft TOPR Contract Carries Stink Of Kink (Updated 02.07.12)


Tonight the City Council is scheduled to approve the first-ever Taste of Park Ridge (“TOPR”) services contract resulting from the first-ever TOPR RFP process.

That contract has been negotiated by City Mgr. Jim Hock, who has been in charge of the entire RFP process since it was ordered by the Council at the request of Mayor Dave Schmidt to address private corporation Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”) having enjoyed a no-bid monopoly of the event for the past 7 years.  During that time, Taste Inc. did not reimburse the City for any of the costs of police, fire and public works services used by TOPR, which were running around $20,000 per year.

Even a cursory review of the draft contract, however, reveals a lack of…hmmmm…let’s call it integrity… in Hock’s process, which we first noted upon reviewing his RFP.

Why is that?

Start with the preamble to the contract, which boldly and unequivocally states: “The Contractor [Taste Inc.] has submitted the lowest and best bid for said Event.”

The fallacy, if not outright deceit, of that initial statement can be condensed into four points:

1. Hock’s RFP required expense reimbursement that reflected approximate costs of $20,000, yet he recommended Taste Inc. and drafted a contractual expense clause to accommodate Taste Inc.’s refusal to commit to those costs, even though the other applicant was willing to accept those costs as is.

2. Hock recommended Taste Inc. and drafted a contractual profit-sharing provision that doesn’t require Taste Inc. to share any profits with the City until it first achieves a subjective “internal fund balance equal to one full year’s expenses” – a standard that Taste Inc. has admitted won’t provide any profit-sharing to the City this year – even though the other applicant offered to negotiate a profit sharing percentage that would apply to the very first dollar of profit earned.

3. Hock’s RFP required a $100,000 irrevocable letter of credit “damage deposit/bond,” but he recommended Taste Inc. over the other applicant despite that other applicant’s offering the full $100,000 LC while Taste Inc. offered only a $20,000 LC; and Hock drafted the contractual damages provision for only $20,000.

4. Hock’s RFP required the production of financial records within 45 days of TOPR and payment of profit-sharing within 30 days after TOPR, yet he recommended Taste Inc. and drafted contractual provisions that permit Taste Inc. to produce records and pay profits (if any) 3 months after TOPR – despite the other applicant agreeing to the 45-day RFP requirements.

In view of these four significant deficiencies, we can’t begin to understand how even Hock, with a straight face, could call Taste Inc.’s proposal “the lowest and best bid.”

Will Hock be asked to explain all of these inconsistencies and accommodations running to Taste Inc.’s benefit at tonight’s meeting?

Don’t count on it.  At least 3 of the 7 aldermen – Sweeney, DiPietro and Bernick – would have given TOPR to Taste Inc. on another no-bid, no-contract, no-reimbursement basis if they had their way. The City’s getting reimbursed for its costs, or sharing in the profits of this signature event, or even running an RFP process with honesty and integrity, apparently isn’t high on their “to do” lists when it comes to the bread and circuses of TOPR.  They seem more concerned with putting on a sufficiently convincing charade so that the average uninformed citizen will believe the RFP process was legit and that Taste Inc. really was the lowest and best bidder. 

And that’s exactly the kind of charade Hock gave them.

What this obviously flawed process does accomplish, however, is it virtually ensures that nobody else will respond to any future RFPs for TOPR. When “the lowest and best bid” is not even close to being that on the most significant points of the RFP, it doesn’t take the nose of a perfumer to detect the stink of kink.

Since Hock and friends have found a way to taint the RFP process on its maiden voyage, we’ll raise a variation on an idea we proposed in our 11.04.11 post: Why doesn’t the City Council create a TOPR enterprise fund so that, like the sewer, water and parking enterprise funds, its monies can only be used for TOPR?

Once such a fund was set up, the Council could then insist that Taste Inc. turn over to that fund the $80,000+ currently in Taste Inc.’s treasury in return for allowing the Tastees (Dave Iglow, Sandy Svizzero, Barb Tyksinski, Dean Patras, John Warnimont, Jackie Mathews and Mel Thillens) to continue to run TOPR. The City could then use those funds to cover the expenses of TOPR and reap all of the profits.  And the Tastees could continue to do what they’ve been doing for the past 7 years.

We suspect the Tastees might be a tad reluctant to agree to that. After all, it took them several years just to admit that Taste Inc. really wasn’t a not-for-profit during the first four years they claimed it to be. And it took a City RFP just to get them to finally offer to reimburse the City for all its TOPR-related expenses.

But if the Tastees have been truthful about running TOPR solely as a labor of love for the benefit of the community, and about not having been stuffing their pockets all these years, why would they have any objection to doing that very same thing they’ve been doing, but on the City’s dime?  How about it, Dave, Sandy, Barb, Dean, John, Jackie and Mel? 

Or has that $80 grand got your tongues?

UPDATE:  Last night the City Council voted unanimously to send the TOPR contract back to City Mgr. Hock for revisions on several points.  We give the Council credit for having regained at least that much common sense after its questionable vote to have Hock prepare a contract for the decidedly not “lowest and best” bidder, Taste Inc.

The roughly 15 minute agenda segment, however, did have its interesting moments. 

A few were provided by Hock, whose response to pointed questions and criticisms about the contract he claims to have “negotiated” (more like “capitulated”) with Taste Inc. included his trademark blank “Am I lying or merely clueless?” expression, which probably won’t be visible from the permanent wide-angle shot of the City’s meeting video.  Given how he’s botched this RFP process up ‘til now, we can’t wait to see what kind of mess Hock makes of the contract “revision.”

A few more “moments” were provided by Taste Inc. spokesman Mel Thillens, who actually called TOPR an event that “makes this City a community worth living in” while expressing his “frustration” with the City Council for not rushing to approve the sweetheart contract Hock gave them.  Apparently it’s frustrating to Thillens that the Council isn’t jumping at the chance to accept the $20,000 letter of credit offered by Taste Inc. when the RFP required a $100,000 one as security for Taste Inc.’s performance; or to accept Taste Inc.’s offer of a 50/50 split of TOPR profits only after Taste Inc. pockets the first $20,000 of profits, which Thillens himself has acknowledged probably won’t leave anything left for the City. 

But the “moments” we most enjoyed were provided by Ald. Tom “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” Bernick (6th), whose commitment to service on the Council recently has been the subject of much speculation.  Bernick, one of the Council’s Taste Inc. apologists, tends to assert “I’m a businessman” to preface remarks that seem to need that kind of endorsement to compensate for their lack of merit, and he used it several times last night when questioning why Taste Inc. would continue to pursue the TOPR contract while getting “kick[ed] in the face” by the Council.

Hey, Tom…how about the $80,000 of net profits already in Taste Inc.’s bank account, with the prospect of adding another $20,000 this year?     

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