Senator seeks more 'sunshine' on tollway contracts

A Des Plaines lawmaker has proposed legislation seeking "greater transparency" in how the Illinois tollway awards contracts.

Democratic state Sen. Laura Murphy has filed a resolution requesting the agency disclose all potential conflicts of interest involving procurements on its website, to post all contracts online - including those not publicly bid - and to follow regulations involving contracts and subcontracts.

"I'm doing this to provide transparency for taxpayers ... they have the right to know how their money is being spent," Murphy said Thursday.

Tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said the agency "is supportive of any measures that help us increase the transparency and openness in the process used to award contracts."

Murphy said the resolution was triggered by an April Daily Herald article about a $6.6 million subcontract with Morreale Communications that piggybacked onto a larger engineering contract and thus did not require a separate vote. The PR firm's CEO, Kim Morreale, is married to Republican state Rep. Michael McAuliffe of Chicago.

Engineering firms do not bid on projects as construction companies do, where proposals are opened publicly and the lowest cost among the qualifiers is selected. Instead, a committee of tollway executives and an engineering professor review engineering applications and make recommendations.

"Every government agency has the responsibility to prevent an appearance of conflict of interest. There should be no appearance of sweetheart, secret deals. The more sunshine, the better for everyone," Murphy said.

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