With its reputation for bare-fisted politics mounting, Oak Lawn has earned another distinction: the village is now worse to do business with than Cicero.
A Des Plaines roofing contractor says he never saw the punch coming when his recent low bid to replace the leaking roof at the public works facility was rejected in favor of a higher bidder with family ties to a village trustee.
“Oak Lawn is very political, more so than others, and I’ve dealt with Cicero,” said Dominic Dunlap, owner of DCG Roofing Solutions.
Although technically never in the running because he did not include a start date in his bid package, the fourth highest bidding company, where Trustee Bob Streit’s brother works as an estimator, was awarded the contract. Mayor Dave Heilmann cast the tie-breaking vote.
“I’ve never had a public (government) situation where they kick out three bidders based on no schedule to get a fourth bidder based on a schedule,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap, who had 20 years’ experience in the roofing industry before striking out on his own to form his own company two years ago, said nothing smelled right about the whole bidding process.
For one thing, most clients, including municipalities, specify a start date and ask bidders if they would be ready on that day.
“Public entities will always put out a start date,” Dunalp said. “Things just seem secretive [in Oak Lawn].”
Originally told that DCG was the lowest bidder, Dunlap expected a phone call from public works telling him when to start. Dunlap did receive a phone call from the village but it was from Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6), explaining that trustees would be voting on the contract to Adler Roofing at the next village board meeting.
“Now all of a sudden we find out after the fact about Bob Streit’s brother. That’s a major concern,” Dunlap said. “(Bob Streit) should have recused himself. He shouldn’t have been allowed to vote.”
At the Nov. 27 board meeting, the three dissenting trustees, including Phelan, Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) and Tom Duhig (Dist. 4), indicated they would be voting “no” on the Adler contract without any discussion.
Almost immediately after casting the tie-breaking vote, the mayor asked the village attorney whether the $166,085 contract required a super majority.
“I asked because I didn’t understand the ‘no’ votes,” Heilmann said. “If Phelan had concerns he never said anything to anyone on the board.”
The mayor said he didn’t know that Streit’s brother worked at Adler until after the fact.
“I appreciate how it looks,” Heilmann said. “This is something that came to us as a staff recommendation approved by the village attorney. I presume that when I get something from staff that is reviewed by the village attorney that we can rely on it.”
Bidders were also told verbally by public works staff that a schedule was to be included in the bid, Heilmann said.
“Before Thanksgiving our staff got a legal opinion from the village attorney and that legal opinion was that certain bids were not compliant, the mayor added. “This is what I have been told.”
Dunlap realizes the roof bid has become a major issue, and that Oak Lawn trustees have glommed on to it making it “political.”
“This thing should have been investigated before they made a vote,” Dunlap said. “I would think [the village board members] would have been smarter than this if it’s political as it is.”
Since losing out on the contract, Dunlap says he has never received so many calls after the fact as he has from Oak Lawn’s village board members.
“I talked to the mayor for an hour-and-a-half,” Dunlap said. “The gist of the conversation was to explain why he voted for it. [The mayor] said there was no collusion and nothing criminal. I find a lot going back on the law and not the ethics of it.”
Oak Lawn trustees will vote whether to rescind their offer to Adler at Tuesday's village board meeting, but Dunlap says his attorney is already involved.