No-Bid Body Cam Contract: Typical Illinois Bad Gov’t, Park Ridge Style (Part 1)


Over the past 30-40 years Illinois has gone from being one of the most prosperous states in the Union to such a socio-economic failed state that Googling “Illinois failed state” will yield pages of articles explaining just how bad off our state is, and how seemingly hopeless is its future.

Illinois did not get that way by one catastrophic event. Instead, it got there because of thousands upon thousands of individual acts of incompetence, stupidity, dishonesty and/or waste by those people – at all levels of government – whom we have elected to represent us; and by those we employ with our tax dollars to conduct those various governmental units’ day-to-day operations.

Today’s post discusses one of those individual acts of incompetent, stupid and dishonest government that recently was committed here in Park Ridge: Our own City Council’s award of a no-bid, sole-source, 5-year, $282,000 contract for police body cameras that made a mockery of both the City’s procurement ordinance, City Code Section 2-9-9, and its Council Policy Statement No. 18.

That body cam procurement process – totally dominated by Police Chief Frank Kaminski – was so screwed up that, were it an episode of “Friends,” it would be titled: “The one where the Council lets Chief K ignore the City’s procurement rules and give a no-bid, sole-source contract to his favorite vendor.”

And, yes, “Joey” and “Phoebe” would have featured roles.

The express purposes of Policy Statement No. 18 include: to “[p]rovide public confidence in City procurement processes” and to “[e]nsure that procurement activity is more accessible and visible to the public.” That Policy also contains a statement of “Procurement Ethics” emphasizing that any interaction between City officials and suppliers be “fair and transparent” so that suppliers are selected “on the basis of meeting appropriate and fair criteria.”

The principle behind such a procurement process is simple: An honest and transparent process means that taxpayers don’t have to rely on the honesty, integrity and judgement (or worry about the lack thereof) of the public official(s) doing the procurement. They can trust the process because they can see how it’s operating every step of the way.

That’s why Policy No. 18 prohibits sole source procurement for non-emergency purchases – like body cams – except under the four limited circumstances listed on page 5 of the Policy, and at subparagraph (C)(5)(c) of Code Section 2-9-9. Both of those require that “[p]rior to presenting the [sole source] request to the Finance Committee, the Department requesting the sole source procurement shall prepare a fact-based, written justification for the Finance Committee to review that addresses each applicable criteria set forth above.” In this case, that would have required the Park Ridge Police Department to identify all of the Department’s “business needs” for body cams, and then produce a “fact-based, written justification” for why only one particular source satisfies those needs.

But try as we might, we can’t find a shred of evidence that Chief K presented the Council with any list of his Department’s “business needs” for body cams, or with any “fact-based, written justification” that only his vendor of choice (Axon Enterprise, Inc.) met those needs, before the Council’s April 11, 2018 budget workshop – at which Chief K did not ask the Council’s permission to sole source with Axon but, instead, brazenly decreed the fait accompli that “we’re going with Axon” on a no-bid, sole-source basis; and that he would be “piloting” only Axon’s cameras.

Despite the significant concerns about announcing the Axon sole-sourcing expressed by Mayor Marty Maloney and Ald. John Moran (1st) at that workshop, none of the aldermen – including Moran and finance committee chair Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) – had the temerity (a/k/a, the spine) to demand that Chief K produce his list of the department’s “business needs” for body cams, or his “fact-based, written request” to do the Axon deal as a no-bid, sole-source one.

But don’t take our word for it: Watch the relevant nine minutes of the April 11, 2018 meeting video (from the 32 minute mark to 41:10) and you will see and hear Kaminski admit that he was solicited by Axon and that he was going to do a 4-month pilot program involving only Axon cameras. You’ll also see and hear City Mgr. Joe Gilmore cover Chief K’s derriere by citing their “research of multiple vendors” – without either Gilmore or Chief K identifying even one of those other vendors, or providing even one page of documentation that such “research” actually was done.

And not one of the aldermen challenged either the Chief’s decision or Gilmore’s apparently non-existent research.

That’s because, as we’ve noted in the past, Kaminski is the most formidable “politician” (a term we consider an epithet rather than a compliment) in City government, if not in all of Park Ridge local government. And he’s not one bit shy about using those superior political skills and his badge to manipulate and even intimidate our aldermen in ways that no self-respecting elected official – especially one who claims to be committed to honestly and competently representing his/her constituents – should ever stand for.

But stand for it the aldermen did, notwithstanding Mazzuca’s toothless “warning” to Chief K at the end of that segment of the budget workshop that “nobody said that we’re going to waive our procurement rules to do this.”

They didn’t have to say it, however, because the Chief knew he already owned the Council on sole-sourcing the body cams from Axon. Which is why, despite no formal vote having been taken at that April 11 workshop, the Axon body cam purchase became a “done deal” that very day– even if some of the folks around The Horseshoe were too clueless to figure that out; and the few who did lacked the spine to do anything more than kick the can down the road, as reflected by Mazucca’s insipid “we’ll take this up at a different COW…and make sure that everything is crystal clear about how to move forward with body cameras.”

The Chief’s no-bid, sole-source Axon deal appears to have remained unofficially done until seven months later when, at the November 26, 2018 COW, the Council unanimously passed the first reading of the resolution approving the contract. In what appears to be Chief K’s first “written justification” of the no-bid, sole-source purchase from Axon, his November 26 “Agenda Cover Memorandum” reads like an advertisement for Axon body cams – presumably because it substantially relies on Axon’s standard-form “Sole Source Letter” attached to it.

We’ll go into the details of the charade by which the April 11 unofficial “done deal” became official in our next post.

To read or post comments, click on title.

8 comments so far

Are you questioning the superiority of the Axon body cams?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not necessarily. But since Chief K chose to ignore the procurement ordinance and policy, we’ll never know. And because the Council let him do that and commit to Axon without creating even the appearance of competition, at the very least we disincentivized Axon from giving us the best possible price.

This sets a bad precedent and is anything but HITA!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly. And it suggests that those aldermen who claim to be H.I.T.A. adherents are moving the needle on the B.S.-O-Meter into the red zone.

This kind of thing seems to happen whenever a process isn’t followed, or some stupid idea is entertained rather than dismissed out of hand.

After watching the relevant part of the April 11 video, only two aldermen (Mazzuca and Moran) questioned the Chief. Neither of them demanded that he conform to the procurement process even though Moran said for the record that Axon’s knowing it was getting the deal means it doesn’t have to give us the best price.

I assume Moran doesn’t run his own business that way or else he would be out of business by now.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Having been an elected official for 8 years, an appointed official for 6 years, and a regular observer of public officials of all stripes for over 50 years, virtually no public officials run their own private businesses and/or households as incompetently, as stupidly, and as wastefully as they run The People’s (i.e., the taxpayers’) “business” a/k/a “government.”

That’s why Illinois is a failed state, Chicago should go bankrupt, and our local units of government too often underperform.

I bit the bullet and watched the whole 11/26 video. Wow! Were Gail Wilkening and Roger Shubert even conscious during the Axon portion of the meeting?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We saw movement.

It’s a shame that our elected officials create these rules and policies and then fail to follow and enforce them. Although I am disappointed with Chief Kaminski, I am more disappointed with Mayor Maloney and the aldermen for not holding the Chief to the procurement rules.

ANONYMOUS ON 12.30.18 5:22 PM: Kaminski took the easy way out, and the Council let him. Checks and balances? You could have fooled me.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we’ve noted many times: “In a contest between the shameless and the spineless, the shameless always win.”

While the Police Chief crossed the line on this one, the City Manager should also take the heat for it and the incident should be noted in his annual performance review by the city council. Although it will be difficult to verify it since the city manager’s performance review in done in closed session.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Agreed – Gilmore and Kaminski were co-conspirators on this one. But preventing the inmates from running the asylum is the task of our elected officials who, in this case, were MIA, intimidated by Gilmore and Kaminski, or just incompetent enforcers of the City Code and Council Policy.

Where’s Part 2? I know how this dumb thing ends, but I can’t wait for your take on it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This editor’s day job is getting in the way. 🙂 Sometime during the week of Jan. 7.

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