Surprising Stuff

The power and misuse of a secret document controlled the City of Lake Geneva’s bidding process for many years.
Although the requests for bids were done openly and sent out publicly, only those bidders that city staff wanted to be selected were eligible to be considered.

This is how it was done. To assure that companies who were to be awarded a city project, were qualified to do the work, they were required to be ‘prequalified’ every year for the projects that they might bid on. Although it sounds good, to only hire companies or personnel capable of doing the work on which they were bidding, there was a sinister use of that document to control bidding. The document did not specify who or how a company was to become prequalified, nor that companies should be notified of the prequalified requirement. It did specify that bids from non-prequalified companies were not to be opened, but were to be discarded. No ‘outsider’ companies could find out how to be prequalified. The only company bids that were ever even looked at were those that knew about the prequalified requirement. Other bidders were never even considered. The companies that bid, and were always discarded and not informed, eventually quit bidding.

This corrupt process was not revealed to the city council members, as the number of bidders slowly went down so far that most projects only had one bidder. Although an alderperson became aware of this practice in 2012 and brought its attention to city management, nothing was done about it until 2016 when Blaine Oborn replaced Dennis Jordan as the new city administrator. Blaine Oborn added the prequalified requirement note to every city request for quotes that he sent out and that corruption of the bid process was ended. As a general rule, any secrecy in local government (including a “closed session”) is a warning sign to the public.

A warning that something of concern is not right and something is likely being hidden from the public. A secret, itself, is neither right nor wrong. The secret, and the reason for keeping it a secret, determines that which, of course, you can’t know because that’s secret also.


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