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updated: 10/24/2012 6:28 PM

DuPage election commission trying to end 'bad' contract

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The DuPage County Election Commission is expected to find out Thursday if it can terminate a contract that some are calling "a bad deal for the taxpayers."

Members of the revamped election board made it clear in July that they wanted to rebid the multimillion-dollar printing contract that Liberty Systems has had since April 2009. At the time, they said the change was needed because the four-year deal with Liberty Systems was mentioned in a report critical of the commission's practices.

On Wednesday, board Chairwoman Cathy Ficker Terrill said it's still her desire to see other vendors compete for the contract to print ballots and other materials for the February and April local elections.

"Our purpose is to do good governance and go to bid," Terrill said. "We want to get the best price for the best quality possible."

But there are obstacles standing in the way of switching print vendors.

Liberty Systems' existing contract with the commission doesn't expire until April. Officials say there are some legal questions about whether the deal could be terminated. If the board can end the contract early, it must act within a certain amount of time.

Terrill says she's hoping a decision will be made during a finance committee meeting, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at the commission's office in Wheaton.

"We need to take action on either going to bid or not going to bid," Terrill said. "If we're going to bid, then we need to cancel the contract (with Liberty Systems)."

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, who appointed Terrill and two other new members to the three-person panel after a consultant's report found poor ethics and procurement practices at the commission, said he agrees that the printing contract should be competitively bid.

"I am pushing to have the contract opened up," Cronin said. "We're working on it."

The county hired the consultants who discovered that the commission failed to follow its own guidelines when it awarded 12 contracts, including the printing deal with Liberty Systems. The consultants recommended that all existing contracts be reviewed to make sure they were properly awarded.

Meanwhile, Cronin blames the previous election board for approving "a really bad" contract with Liberty Systems that might be too difficult for the new board to terminate.

"It's a bad deal for the taxpayers," Cronin said. "It would never have happened on my watch. I'm disappointed that it was ever struck to begin with."

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