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No-Bid Body Cam Contract: Typical Illinois Bad Gov’t, Park Ridge Style (Part 2)

01.14.19

It took us awhile, but we finally finished Part II about how the Park Ridge City Council helped Police Chief Frank Kaminski (1) make a mockery of the City’s procurement requirements by (2) authorizing a no-bid, sole-source 5-year, $282,000 purchase of Axon body cameras for our police officers.

Back in April 2018, Kaminski told the Council he was going to test only Axon body cameras despite his failure (refusal?) to follow the City’s procurement rules. And he did it in the face of a warning by Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) that “nobody said that we’re going to waive our procurement rules to do this.”

Unfortunately, Mazzuca, et al. didn’t have to say they were waiving anything, because Chief K recognizes empty warnings from toothless wannabe-politicians when he hears them.

So when this body cam issue finally came up for a Council vote at the November 26, 2018 Finance & Budget COW meeting, the discussion that evening – running from the 2:57:34 through the 4:04:50 mark of that COW meeting video (including a 45-minute sales pitch from 3:05:15 to 3:50:35 from Axon’s Vince Valentine) – bounced between stupid, ridiculous and infuriating.

You can watch the entire video if you want, but we don’t advise it: We already have and it’s not worth the time. But if you want a few of the lowlights, try these:

  Ald. Marty Joyce (7th) endorsing Axon body cams (starting at 3:35:22) because Crook County and the City of Chicago both use them. Apparently the pervasive incompetence, wastefulness and corruption of those two cesspools of government is lost on Joyce: Otherwise, the fact that Axon was the body cam of choice for Toni Taxwinkle and The Rahmfather should have been reason enough to put the brakes on this sole-source deal.

  Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) claiming (from 3:50:40 to 3:54:36) that “[his] world is H.I.T.A.” (the acronym, originated by the late Mayor Dave Schmidt, for “Honesty,” “Integrity,” “Transparency” and “Accountability”) before endorsing Chief K’s choice of Axon body cams as “defendable” (How’s that for a ringing endorsement!) despite a procurement process that was anything but “H.I.T.A.”

*   Ald. John Moran (1st), who may have suffered whiplash (starting at 3:59:20) from voting against the sole-source procurement (while mumbling about needing “more information”) and then almost immediately flipping his vote in favor of Axon because he didn’t want to be seen as being against body cams.

But that night’s poster child for bad government was Mazzuca, who was able to fuse tediousness, whininess and spinelessness into a seamless ball of fecklessness.

It was in our 05.08.2013 post that we first described Mazzuca as “the kind of guy who, armed with an MBA from the University of Chicago, can spend an hour drilling down into a potato chip.” While that can sometimes be useful in obtaining information, all too often Mazzuca’s chip drilling has produced little but a worthless pile of crumbs, as it did back in 2013 when he drilled himself silly before (Surprise!) rolling over for Chief K’s cop shop renovations.

The past was prologue on November 26, as Mazzuca badgered both Axon’s spinmeister and Chief K with more observations, comments and questions than the rest of the Council combined – which he followed with a litany of time-wasting gripes (starting at 3:54:40) about the history and inadequacies of Chief K’s procurement process.

But when it came down to actually having to vote on the Chief’s body cam sole-sourcing, Mazzuca grabbed his ankles and announced that he would vote “reluctantly…and I cannot emphasize ‘reluctantly’ enough” to approve the sole-source deal, before finishing with gratuitous shots at the Chief for “sloppy execution,” “foot dragging” and “excuses.”

That’s what’s called (borrowing a famous headline from the Boston Globe about a Jimmy Carter speech): “Mush from the wimp.”

Interestingly, even such mush was enough to provoke the ire of Chief K, who seems unwilling and/or incapable of tolerating anything but praise of himself and his department. So the Chief went after Mazzuca in a high-dudgeon defense of his integrity (starting at 3:57:59) before daring the Council to “fire [him] today!”

Dramatic, yes, but about as meaningless as the mush that provoked it: Only City Manager Joe Gilmore can fire the Chief. And for reasons known only to Joe Gilmore, he consistently provided alibis for the Chief’s eight-month trampling of the procurement rules.

Once the Council cast its unanimous 7-0 vote on November 26, the second vote required for final approval of the Axon contract, scheduled for the December 3, 2018 Council meeting, appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

On December 3rd, however, Mazzuca sprung a motion to defer the vote until the Council could review the Axon contract that the Chief failed (refused?) to deliver to the aldermen until minutes before that night’s meeting. Moran seconded that motion but, not surprisingly, it lost by a 3 (Yes: Mazzuca, Moran and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie. And despite some additional mealy-mouthed complaints from Mazzuca and Moran, they dutifully grabbed their ankles and voted to pass the unread Axon sole-source contract by 6-0.

Fortunately, this episode of bad government lasted only ½ hour, from the 1:17:59 to the 1:49:35 mark of the December 3 meeting video.

But the no-bid, sole-source procurement charade turned into a cynical political travesty at the December 17 Council meeting (from 13:20 to 36:50 of that meeting video) when Moran made a half-hearted motion (“I don’t even expect it to [pass].”) for reconsideration of the Council’s December 3rd unanimous approval of the Axon contract.

Why did he make a motion that he did not expect would pass?

Moran claimed that he had done “some research” since the December 3rd vote (Nothing like an elected official waiting until after the deal is fully cooked before finally doing his job.). And in response to what seemed like an orchestrated “tell me more, tell me more” inquiry from Mazzuca (at 18:48), Moran noted that Kaminski never produced what he described as a “Department of Justice report” about the Elgin body cam vetting process and the wonders of Axon that he supposedly relied on in deciding to sole-source from Axon.

Moran also suggested that the information provided by Axon about purportedly unique features like 12-hour “battery life” and unique “interfacing” ability may not have been totally accurate, thorough and/or complete – notwithstanding its wholehearted endorsement by Chief K and CM Gilmore, and its previously unquestioned support by Moran and the rest of the Council.

All of those points could have, and should have, been raised during the seven months (between April 11 and November 26) that the aldermen sat on their thumbs, as could Melidosian’s abandonment (starting at the 30:05 mark of the video) of his previous support of Chief K’s “defendable” sole-source decision and his proposal for a full-blown competitive bidding process.

Predictably, this eleventh-hour gambit proved to be too little, too late – failing by another 3 (Yes: Moran, Mazzuca and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie.

As best as we can tell, Moran’s do-over motion failed because he, Mazzuca and Melidosian did absolutely no lobbying of Wilkening, Shubert, Joyce and/or Milissis to change their own misguided sole-source votes.

So why no lobbying?

We suspect it’s because the Triple Ms were more concerned about creating some plausible CYA for themselves, and not about how badly they had botched the body cam procurement. So they pulled the kind of crass political stunt we’ve come to expect from the Madiganocrats and RINOs down in Springfield, and on the Crook County Board: Having let Kaminski ignore the procurement requirements and than having grabbed their ankles on two successive Axon votes, even a failed do-over let’s them argue that they tried to correct their mistake but didn’t get the support of any of their colleagues in the Council majority.

You might want to remember this the next time any of these three invoke the name, reputation or record of Mayor Schmidt, or claim to be proponents of H.I.T.A.

Because in passing this hinky deal those three didn’t have a thimble-full of H.I.T.A., or one calcified spine, to share among themselves.

To read or post comments, click on title.

9 comments so far

Are body cams so darn important that the Council couldn’t enforce its procurement rules? I thought our crime rate is low and staying there, so why the big rush? Why didn’t Shubert and Wilkening say anything? Where was Milissis?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good questions. The only one we can answer is the last one: Milissis’ work commitments have kept him out of town for awhile, although he has participated in some meetings by telephone.

Are you disputing that Axon is the best choice? If not, why are you ripping on the Chief and the Council for making the right decision?

EDITOR’S NOTE: No. But based on what Moran claims his too-little-too-late “research” showed, Axon’s advantages may have been significantly over-sold.

The reason we are “ripping on the Chief and the Council” is because they failed to follow the City’s procurement ordinance AND the Council’s procurement policy, which is intended to (a) get the City’s taxpayers the best value; and (b) reduce the chances of corruption (i.e., gifts, payoffs, etc.). As both Mayor Maloney and Ald. Moran pointed out during the various body cam discussions, telling a vendor that they are your sole source for a no-bid $280,000 purchase is not the way to get the best deal for the taxpayers.

But that didn’t stop the Council from going ahead with its boneheaded decision.

And if past is prologue you will, should any of these three run again you will endorse them.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes you choose congestive heart disease over pancreatic cancer, sometimes you just close your eyes and die.

But, for the record: We did not endorse Mazzuca either in 2013 or in 2017; we barely endorsed Moran over Andrea Cline in 2015; and since this is Melidosian’s first campaign for elective office, we’ve never even had an opportunity to endorse him.

So your point is…?

I’m not sure who I blame more for this mess: Kaminski, Moran, or Mazzuca. (Melidosian seems to have been just a go-along with the other two).

As you have pointed out in previous posts, Kaminski is the consummate politician who practically owns this Council (and the mayor?), and knows it. He could be expected to demand his way knowing he was going to get it. Moran seemed to know what was wrong about this process, but he swung back and forth between sounding like the BMOC and sounding like somebody who was afraid that Kaminski might yell at him. And Mazzuca comes off as an annoying pest who is a legend in his own mind.

The good thing is that it’s only costing us $280,000, because I am convinced it would have played out the same way had it been $500,000 or a million.

One question: Why didn’t Mayor Maloney break the tie or veto the Axon deal?

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re right about “only costing us $280,000” because it “would have played out the same way” if it cost double that, or more.

As for the mayor breaking a tie of vetoing the Axon deal, we see no legal reason why he couldn’t have done so had he wanted to.

ANONYMOUS ON 01.15.19 8:05 AM,

How do “YOU” know they made the right decision?

Answer: You don’t!!

How do “YOU” know they got a good deal?

Answer: You don’t!!

REASON: They skipped the procurement process that was implemented to avoid situations like this and answer these type of questions for the taxpayers of Park Ridge. Some would also say the procurement process helps ensure HITA principles!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yep.

I see on Concerned Homeowners that Ald. Melidosian intentionally copied the style and color of Mayor Schmidt’s sign. Based on what he did with these body cams that’s an insult to the memory of the late mayor, who would never have let Kaminski get away with this body cam deal.

But why didn’t Mayor Maloney break the tie vote on Moran’s reconsideration motion, or veto the Dec. 3 Axon approval? I think that’s what Schmidt would have done.

EDITOR’S NOTE: But Melidosian’s “world is H.I.T.A.” – just ask him.

Anybody can talk “H.I.T.A.” but damned few can walk it. And the six aldermen who voted for this bogus body cam procurement aren’t among those damned few.

Good question re the mayor and vetoing the 12/3 vote. We don’t believe he legally has the ability to veto the do-over vote, although we don’t know whether he could have broken the tie on it.

Why pick on Mazzuca, Melidosian and Moran while leaving Joyce, Shubert and Wilkening alone? They contributed nothing to the decision but their unexplained and deciding votes for the body cams.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Actually, Joyce expressed his support for the Axon cams because Crook County and Chicago use them, an opinion the cluelessness of which is self-evident.

As Mark Twain once said: “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”

Had Kaminski pilot tested Elgin’s three highest-rated body cams back in April he could have had those done by the December vote. He didn’t and the Council rewarded him for it twice.

No HITA, just SHITA.

In your May 8, 2013 post you wrote that Mazzuca lobbed a couple of “marshmallow” questions at Kaminski before rolling over at the Chief’s command and voting to override Mayor Dave’s veto of Kaminski’s $389,000 Phase II cop shop renovation/expansion that did nothing to fix what was called health-threatening mold infestation. This time around, Mazzuca actually barked at the Chief before rolling over and voting for his $282,000 body cam deal.

In 5 years Mazzuca went from marshmallows to barking, and from $389,000 to only $282,000. At this rate he might actually become worthy of representing the 6th Ward by around 2023.

How do you feel, in retrospect, about recommending his appointment to fill the 6th ward vacancy in 2012?

EDITOR’S NOTE: It still seems like the right decision at that time.

Unfortunately, his performance in office was sufficiently mediocre that we didn’t endorse him when he ran in 2013; and why we responded to his narrow (20 vote) margin over Vinny LaVecchia by hoping that he would figure out that “there’s more to City government than drilling down to the center of the earth on the issue of water rates, and that rubber-stamping every non merit-based pay increase that comes down the pike is horrible public policy.” (per our 04.22.2013 post).

This body-cam ankle-grab suggests no significant improvement beyond what you have mentioned.



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