Former manager alleges Pace bidding violations

 
By Katie Drews and Patrick Rehkamp
Better Government Association
Updated 8/17/2015 5:53 PM

Several months after a Pace manager was arrested on charges of accepting more than $280,000 in kickbacks for helping vendors get contracts at the suburban bus agency, a former high-ranking Pace employee has filed a lawsuit claiming more widespread procurement problems.

Susan Jung Lundy, previously a manager of the purchasing department at Arlington Heights-based Pace, said in the lawsuit she was demoted and then fired in 2014 in retaliation for blowing the whistle on violations of competitive bidding rules.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Lundy said in the lawsuit, filed in July, that she reported to the agency's ethics officer that Pace Executive Director Thomas J. Ross and other employees shared "confidential information about the bidding process with board members during an open procurement." She also said she was told to post a bid on the agency's website before it was published in a newspaper, which violates department policies, the suit claims.

At least one vendor had been given information about a bid before it was advertised, according to the lawsuit.

Certain purchases and contracts that exceed $40,000 "shall be accomplished by free and open competitive bidding after advertisement," according to Pace documents. The rule exists to ensure the best price and to prevent insiders from gaining an unfair advantage in winning contracts.

It's unclear what specific bids were involved in Lundy's allegations.

Lundy, who was making $107,000 a year, also claims in the suit that she was discriminated against as an Asian-American woman and said her male co-workers were paid more despite having fewer responsibilities.

"I would say that there are some top-level managers there that don't feel like they need to or want to follow policies," Lundy said when reached by phone.

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Questions surrounding contracts surfaced in April when Rajinder Sachdeva, a former Pace manager from Schaumburg, was arrested on charges of accepting more than $280,000 in kickbacks for helping certain IT companies get hired by Pace.

Sachdeva has pleaded not guilty. His attorney declined to comment, as did the U.S. attorney's office, which is prosecuting the case. Pace said it is working with authorities during the investigation.

There's no indication Lundy's allegations are part of that federal probe.

Pace has paid more than $500,000 in legal fees to the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels in recent months, according to documents obtained by the Better Government Association through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

At least part of that tab appears to involve Lundy's accusations, with the Pace spokesman saying the firm was hired to follow the agency's ethics ordinance, which says independent counsel should be appointed to investigate allegations involving the executive director or board members.

•To reach Rehkamp and Drews, email prehkamp@bettergov.org or call (312) 386-9201.

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