McHenry Co. (ECWd) -
Our recent exposure of Algonquin Township Road District's failure to bid out salt purchases in accordance with established laws continues to raise concerns. In particular, as outlined in the previous article, the bidding is to be done through a unit of government, not a private business. The primary reason for this is transparency.
We have now obtained even more disturbing records which once again involved the private nonprofit known as the McHenry County Township Highway Commissioner's Association, which Bob Miller was the president of during the time in question.
One of the attempted justifications for Miller's actions exposed in our last article was by a resident who quoted from a Lake County resolution that had absolutely nothing to do with our article or the situation of not bidding salt by the former Algonquin Highway Commissioner Bob Miller. In addition to that attempt, the same person quotes from a 2008 Auditor Generals' report on the state salt bidding for the year in question. There is nothing found in that report either that has anything to do with Algonquin Township Road District's failure to bid salt in 2008 or 2009, the years covered in the previous article.
In fact, according to the Illinois State Central Management Services (CMS), the Algonquin Township did not even participate in the state salt bidding either of those years so attempts to point to a Lake County resolution and an Auditor General report on state bidding was nothing but a deflection from the truth.
CMS has confirmed the Algonquin Township Road District (Bob Miller), did not participate in the state salt bidding program for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. (CMS FOIA and Response)
Public records obtained from the Township resulted in no bidding publications for salt by the Road District between 2008 and 2017. We did not seek records later than 2008. The Road District did participate in the CMS state contract for salt from 2012-2016, confirmed by CMS.
The 2010-2011 salt bidding was done through the private association, MCHC, of which Miller reports to be the President of. However, the Secretary of State shows no such company registered in Illinois. The legal entity we believe to actually be doing business in these records is MCTHCA, not MCHC. The fact MCHC is the one entering into contracts when they are not an actual legal entity is yet another pattern of concern we find with how things were done in Algonquin Township.
The documents we now have is more proof that Miller was using his position as a public official to operate private businesses using public resources. While some have attempted to imply we have claimed this private business to be Bob Miller's personally owned business, that is not true. These are private nonprofit businesses that Miller formed with others, and he is named as an officer.
The 2010-2011 Salt Bid Specifications make it clear this is not a government agency bidding salt, but rather the nonprofit that Miller was the President of. This document confirms MCHC is operating out of a public building and cites that location as it's office when in reality that is the office of the Road District.
"13. ALL SEALED BIDS WILL BE OPENED AT 8:30 AM, THURSDAY, APRIL 29TH, 2010, M.C.H.C. OFFICE, 3702 U.S. Highway 14, Crystal Lake, IL 60014."
The bid specifications make it very clear that it is the MCHC that is in total control of the process, not a government agency.
The Bid Notice conflicts with the bid specifications on several points, but one in particular is the fact the specifications are to be delivered to MCHC yet the Bid Notice requires them to be mailed to the Algonquin Township Road District. The township clerk, the keeper of the records, has been unable to produce any bids recieved on this matter.
- Bid Spec: "Proposals shall be delivered or mailed to M.C.H.C., 3702 U.S. Highway 14, Crystal Lake, IL 60014."
- Bid Notice: "The bids will be received until 8:30 AM on the 29th day of April 2010 by mail or delivered by hand to the Algonquin Township Road District, 3702 U.S. Highway 14, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 and at 8:30 AM at such place all bids will be publicly opened and read aloud."
Everything in the Bid Specification points to a private entity being in control to include who a surety bond is to be provided to, MCHC, not the Algonquin Township Road District.
Another document raising a huge red flag is one that only a subpoena or search warrant will get to the bottom of because we are unable to FOIA records from a private association and to date, this business has ignored our request for records.
The contract for salt belongs to a private entity and is controlled by that entity. Was this done as a mechanism to potentially generate money for the private business that Miller was an officer of?
"The bidder agrees to deliver the product within 5 days or by (If the additional time is granted by M.C.H.C). A penalty in the amount of $.50/ton per working day shall be applied against the successful bidder in the event the product is not delivered by the specified date."
So if salt is not delivered as outlined, and a penalty is assessed, the penalty would be payable to the holder of the contract, MCHC. If such a penalty was issued and paid to them, is that not Miller using his position as a public official to possibly benefit a business in which he may have either a direct or indirect financial interest in?
Before the handful of Miller defenders try to "pile on" regarding the penalty issue, this is the very reason the law requires this entire process to be done by a government agency. They are subject to FOIA and all these questions could be answered. When public business is done through private associations not subject to transparency laws, the public has no clue if any penalty was issued or not.
Had this gone through bidding by a government agency, the taxpayers would be in line to benefit from such penalties rather than a private business with direct ties to two of the three elected officials involved.
The contract for this bid was awarded by the Mchenry County Highway Commissioners however the letter is not signed by them but rather Bob Miller as Highway Commissioner.
While we fully understand the actions outlined above are past any statute of limitations as it relates to potential criminal prosecution, it is important for the public to know how things were done in the past. Important because this is yet another example of a key figure in local government, Bob Miller, who was lifted up as an educator of Highway Commissioners all over this state.
If this is the way the educator ran things is it any wonder we find so many other problems in Township Road Districts?
In closing for those that wish to minimize this exposure, know this. Since we started exposing matters in Algonquin Township, our tip line has resulted in dozens of communications that have resulted in numerous resignations and criminal investigations with other Townships in the state. Our "Time Card Tuesday" series has resulted in our receiving numerous communications confirming other public bodies are finding the same type of thing and are taking steps to fix the problem. I mention these points because some imply this exposure is a waste of time.
We disagree. Other communities learn from these types of exposures and actually take steps to fix the problems.