Tollway watchdog wants conflict of interest guidelines spelled out after 'potential' issue
The Illinois tollway's new watchdog advised the agency to tighten its conflict of interest rules after flagging a contract with an influential engineering firm.
After investigating a complaint that Globetrotters Engineering Corp. was being paid to supervise its own work, Inspector General Theodor Hengesbach found that no actual conflict of interest occurred.
But he advised tollway executives to develop a written conflict of interest policy and "not allow the same vendor to serve in potentially conflicting roles on the same project," in a report released this week.
Globetrotters is a Chicago-based firm of architects and engineers that includes former tollway Executive Director Brian McPartlin as a senior vice president. The company has contributed more than $500,000 to political candidates of both parties, according to state records. McPartlin left the toll authority in the fall of 2008.
The complaint alleged that Globetrotters was acting as both design engineer and construction manager, a supervisory role, on a project. Hengesbach's report concluded that because a construction manager oversees engineering work, "such arrangements have the potential to create an appearance of a conflict of interest."
The project in question involved small-scale, specialty work on tollway fuel sites in 2011 and 2012, spokesman Dan Rozek said.
"The tollway is diligent in monitoring contracts to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, including requiring its general consultant, AECOM Engineers, to audit all construction contracts," he said.
Although tollway officials did not provide details, state records show that Globetrotters received about $2.5 million in 2011 and 2012 for work that included engineering and audit/management duties.
The tollway in November approved a $3.5 million contract with the firm for construction management of bridge work.
Although construction contracts are publicly bid, professionals such as engineers are selected by a committee of tollway engineers, procurement and diversity staff, an Illinois Department of Transportation engineer and a retired engineer recommended by a professional association.
Hengesbach was appointed in late fall as Inspector General.