Forest preserve's bidding practices scrutinized
A Democratic candidate seeking a DuPage Forest Preserve District seat says steps must be taken to prevent "fraudulent contracts" from being approved by the district.
Steve Leopoldo blames an "outdated" policy for the bid-rigging scandal that resulted in two former employees being charged last month with scamming the district out of more than $150,000. As part of the pending case, law enforcement officials allege that one of the ex-employees helped set up a company that was given forest preserve work.
Leopoldo, who is trying to unseat Republican District 3 incumbent Linda Painter during the Nov. 6 election, said the district should revise a 1988 policy that doesn't require disclosure of subcontractors or owners during the bid process.
The Darien resident also is calling on every proposed contract more than $5,000 to be competitively bid. He also wants "a truly independent ombudsman" to review those contracts.
"The IT fraud stuff happened over a period of six years, and it wasn't caught," Leopoldo said. "We saw the consequences of not having sound oversight."
Painter said she isn't opposed to taking a closer look at the district's policies. But, she said, it would be "unrealistic" to implement Leopoldo's suggestion of requiring an independent review for contracts more than $5,000.
"I can't imagine how many contracts we have that are more than $5,000," the Hinsdale resident said.
When it comes to its bidding process, Painter said the forest preserve district seeks price quotes for contracts that are more than $20,000. Agreements for professional services don't have to be competitively bid, however.
Because of the amount of time and work that goes into the bidding process, Painter questions whether money could be saved by getting price quotes for smaller contracts.
"It would cost us more in attorneys' fees than the amount that it would save us," she said.
District 3 includes all or parts of Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Lemont, Naperville, Westmont, Willowbrook and Woodridge.
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