Edgar Co., IL. (ECWd) –
It wasn’t much more than a year ago when the Edgar County Board, finally, after significant prodding, realized there was a legal requirement to place its insurance contracts out for bid. This requirement is codified in state law.
At least three times this year, I asked Alan Zuber, the Edgar County Board Insurance Committee Chairman, if they were going to place the insurance out for bid.
We learned the answer at the November 25, 2015 County Board Meeting. They approved contracts for property, casualty, liability, and workman’s comp insurance without placing them out for bid.
After learning about this insurance approval, I submitted a request for public records asking for proof of advertising for insurance bids. The answer, was that the insurance was not put out for bid, and the reasons were based on information proved to Mr. Zuber by Bushue Human Resources.
So, parting from what was established just the prior year or so, as an acknowledgement that bidding out insurance was required, Mr. Zuber apparently goes out of his way to find something, anything, that he can use to avoid bidding the insurance. He writes an email to Bushue Human Resources asking them if it had to be bid out, and then takes what they respond with as if it proved bidding was not required.
Bushue was more than happy to provide the information, with the statement that they are not attorneys and the board should consult with the State’s Attorney on the issue, and that they could certainly bid it out annually if that is what the board wished – while explaining how much time and work it would take. Additionally, and Bushue didn’t mention this, the contract with Bushue has to be bid out if it exceeds $30k per year.
Zuber and the insurance committee now had documents that seemed to support their stance that it doesn’t need bid out, or at least they would use them that way. The first one is even a statute that explains the exception to bidding…the only problem is the statute provided was the Illinois Municipal Code, which does not apply to a county and does not contain the same language as the Counties Code. I stopped reading it after reading the title, “Illinois Municipal Code”. Didn’t take me long to figure out it did not apply to Edgar County.
Next was a “Legal Brief” explaining bidding requirements. I stopped reading it after the second paragraph because it was dealing strictly with municipalities – not counties. If you open the documents, and read the highlighted parts on pages 1 and 4, you can clearly see the legal brief actually states that counties must bid out contracts over $30k. The Insurance Committee probably “didn’t see” that part…
Finally, Bushue provided Zuber with a “Ten (10) Guidelines to Municipal Contracts” document for him to use. He should have simply deleted the document, because the title itself tells him it does not apply to counties. Read it if you like, but it is worthless for this subject as it does not apply.
I sent Mr. Zuber an email asking him to fire Bushue Human Resources for the bad advice they gave him. It would have been much better if they had provided nothing at all, because what they did provide does not apply to counties. It is a shame that our tax dollars paid for this advice. You would think a company in the business of assisting public bodies obtain insurance could at least provide sound, applicable justification for questions like: “Do counties have to advertise for insurance bids?” The answer is YES!
The Illinois Bar Association website has this Attorney General Opinion:
Informal Opinion No. I-12-006, issued June 14, 2012 – Application of County Competitive Bidding Requirements to the Purchase of Health Care and Liability Insurance
Section 5 1022 of the Counties Code generally requires that all purchases of services, materials, equipment, or supplies in excess of $30,000, other than professional services, must be by a contract let to the lowest, responsible bidder after advertising for bids in a newspaper published within the county. Whether the professional services exception to section 5 1022 applies is determined on the basis of whether the services require a high degree of professional skill or judgment or there is a need for confidence, trust, and belief in the person rendering the services. Neither contracts for insurance coverage nor contracts for insurance broker or agent services involve the provision of services requiring a high degree of professional skill or judgment, nor is there a need for confidence, trust, or belief in the person rendering the services. Accordingly, the competitive bidding requirements of section 5 1022 of the Counties Code apply to securing and renewing health care or liability insurance coverage and the use of designated agents to secure or renew the insurance coverage. 55 ILCS 5/5 1022 (West 2010).
The Counties Code requires bidding in Section 5-1022, I am not pasting all the ways to competitively bid it for counties, but I will say that waiving the requirements with a 3/4 vote is not listed in the counties code:
(a) Any purchase by a county with fewer than 2,000,000 inhabitants of services, materials, equipment or supplies in excess of $30,000, other than professional services, shall be contracted for in one of the following ways:
The problem now, is what to do about it. We know that Mr. Zuber knows it has to be bid out, and that for whatever reason he, and the board, simply decided to find a way not to bid it and failed. You cannot have been an educator and principal as a career and not know what the counties code means when reading it – especially when you were on the insurance committee the last time it was ironed out.