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No-Bid Body Cam Contract: Typical Illinois Bad Gov’t, Park Ridge Style (Part 2)

01.14.19

It took us awhile, but we finally finished Part II about how the Park Ridge City Council helped Police Chief Frank Kaminski (1) make a mockery of the City’s procurement requirements by (2) authorizing a no-bid, sole-source 5-year, $282,000 purchase of Axon body cameras for our police officers.

Back in April 2018, Kaminski told the Council he was going to test only Axon body cameras despite his failure (refusal?) to follow the City’s procurement rules. And he did it in the face of a warning by Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) that “nobody said that we’re going to waive our procurement rules to do this.”

Unfortunately, Mazzuca, et al. didn’t have to say they were waiving anything, because Chief K recognizes empty warnings from toothless wannabe-politicians when he hears them.

So when this body cam issue finally came up for a Council vote at the November 26, 2018 Finance & Budget COW meeting, the discussion that evening – running from the 2:57:34 through the 4:04:50 mark of that COW meeting video (including a 45-minute sales pitch from 3:05:15 to 3:50:35 from Axon’s Vince Valentine) – bounced between stupid, ridiculous and infuriating.

You can watch the entire video if you want, but we don’t advise it: We already have and it’s not worth the time. But if you want a few of the lowlights, try these:

  Ald. Marty Joyce (7th) endorsing Axon body cams (starting at 3:35:22) because Crook County and the City of Chicago both use them. Apparently the pervasive incompetence, wastefulness and corruption of those two cesspools of government is lost on Joyce: Otherwise, the fact that Axon was the body cam of choice for Toni Taxwinkle and The Rahmfather should have been reason enough to put the brakes on this sole-source deal.

  Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) claiming (from 3:50:40 to 3:54:36) that “[his] world is H.I.T.A.” (the acronym, originated by the late Mayor Dave Schmidt, for “Honesty,” “Integrity,” “Transparency” and “Accountability”) before endorsing Chief K’s choice of Axon body cams as “defendable” (How’s that for a ringing endorsement!) despite a procurement process that was anything but “H.I.T.A.”

*   Ald. John Moran (1st), who may have suffered whiplash (starting at 3:59:20) from voting against the sole-source procurement (while mumbling about needing “more information”) and then almost immediately flipping his vote in favor of Axon because he didn’t want to be seen as being against body cams.

But that night’s poster child for bad government was Mazzuca, who was able to fuse tediousness, whininess and spinelessness into a seamless ball of fecklessness.

It was in our 05.08.2013 post that we first described Mazzuca as “the kind of guy who, armed with an MBA from the University of Chicago, can spend an hour drilling down into a potato chip.” While that can sometimes be useful in obtaining information, all too often Mazzuca’s chip drilling has produced little but a worthless pile of crumbs, as it did back in 2013 when he drilled himself silly before (Surprise!) rolling over for Chief K’s cop shop renovations.

The past was prologue on November 26, as Mazzuca badgered both Axon’s spinmeister and Chief K with more observations, comments and questions than the rest of the Council combined – which he followed with a litany of time-wasting gripes (starting at 3:54:40) about the history and inadequacies of Chief K’s procurement process.

But when it came down to actually having to vote on the Chief’s body cam sole-sourcing, Mazzuca grabbed his ankles and announced that he would vote “reluctantly…and I cannot emphasize ‘reluctantly’ enough” to approve the sole-source deal, before finishing with gratuitous shots at the Chief for “sloppy execution,” “foot dragging” and “excuses.”

That’s what’s called (borrowing a famous headline from the Boston Globe about a Jimmy Carter speech): “Mush from the wimp.”

Interestingly, even such mush was enough to provoke the ire of Chief K, who seems unwilling and/or incapable of tolerating anything but praise of himself and his department. So the Chief went after Mazzuca in a high-dudgeon defense of his integrity (starting at 3:57:59) before daring the Council to “fire [him] today!”

Dramatic, yes, but about as meaningless as the mush that provoked it: Only City Manager Joe Gilmore can fire the Chief. And for reasons known only to Joe Gilmore, he consistently provided alibis for the Chief’s eight-month trampling of the procurement rules.

Once the Council cast its unanimous 7-0 vote on November 26, the second vote required for final approval of the Axon contract, scheduled for the December 3, 2018 Council meeting, appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

On December 3rd, however, Mazzuca sprung a motion to defer the vote until the Council could review the Axon contract that the Chief failed (refused?) to deliver to the aldermen until minutes before that night’s meeting. Moran seconded that motion but, not surprisingly, it lost by a 3 (Yes: Mazzuca, Moran and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie. And despite some additional mealy-mouthed complaints from Mazzuca and Moran, they dutifully grabbed their ankles and voted to pass the unread Axon sole-source contract by 6-0.

Fortunately, this episode of bad government lasted only ½ hour, from the 1:17:59 to the 1:49:35 mark of the December 3 meeting video.

But the no-bid, sole-source procurement charade turned into a cynical political travesty at the December 17 Council meeting (from 13:20 to 36:50 of that meeting video) when Moran made a half-hearted motion (“I don’t even expect it to [pass].”) for reconsideration of the Council’s December 3rd unanimous approval of the Axon contract.

Why did he make a motion that he did not expect would pass?

Moran claimed that he had done “some research” since the December 3rd vote (Nothing like an elected official waiting until after the deal is fully cooked before finally doing his job.). And in response to what seemed like an orchestrated “tell me more, tell me more” inquiry from Mazzuca (at 18:48), Moran noted that Kaminski never produced what he described as a “Department of Justice report” about the Elgin body cam vetting process and the wonders of Axon that he supposedly relied on in deciding to sole-source from Axon.

Moran also suggested that the information provided by Axon about purportedly unique features like 12-hour “battery life” and unique “interfacing” ability may not have been totally accurate, thorough and/or complete – notwithstanding its wholehearted endorsement by Chief K and CM Gilmore, and its previously unquestioned support by Moran and the rest of the Council.

All of those points could have, and should have, been raised during the seven months (between April 11 and November 26) that the aldermen sat on their thumbs, as could Melidosian’s abandonment (starting at the 30:05 mark of the video) of his previous support of Chief K’s “defendable” sole-source decision and his proposal for a full-blown competitive bidding process.

Predictably, this eleventh-hour gambit proved to be too little, too late – failing by another 3 (Yes: Moran, Mazzuca and Melidosian) to 3 (No: Wilkening, Shubert and Joyce; Milissis MIA) tie.

As best as we can tell, Moran’s do-over motion failed because he, Mazzuca and Melidosian did absolutely no lobbying of Wilkening, Shubert, Joyce and/or Milissis to change their own misguided sole-source votes.

So why no lobbying?

We suspect it’s because the Triple Ms were more concerned about creating some plausible CYA for themselves, and not about how badly they had botched the body cam procurement. So they pulled the kind of crass political stunt we’ve come to expect from the Madiganocrats and RINOs down in Springfield, and on the Crook County Board: Having let Kaminski ignore the procurement requirements and than having grabbed their ankles on two successive Axon votes, even a failed do-over let’s them argue that they tried to correct their mistake but didn’t get the support of any of their colleagues in the Council majority.

You might want to remember this the next time any of these three invoke the name, reputation or record of Mayor Schmidt, or claim to be proponents of H.I.T.A.

Because in passing this hinky deal those three didn’t have a thimble-full of H.I.T.A., or one calcified spine, to share among themselves.

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