Participant in City promotional campaign bid questions process
2 months, 3 weeks ago by Bob Gough
Mayor says mistake was made, but then caught and bid process was handled properly; Employee involved no longer works for the City
Quincy Mayor John Spring said a mistake was made in the bid handling process on the City’s Safe Routes to School project.
Rachel Henke, who was the Community Development Coordinator in the City’s Department of Planning and Development, is no longer employed by the City.
Appearing on WTAD’s Mary Griffith Show, Spring said a mistake was made in the process. Henke had sent an e-mail to a private video vendor asking quote "I would most appreciate it if the total cost of the 4 components would be $40,000 or more.”
Spring said after the mistake was caught, the bid process was handled properly.
“It was bid out properly and awarded based upon…production that will happen,” Spring said.
Spring said this morning that Henke no longer worked for the City. He would not give specifics to her departure, citing personnel procedures.
“A mistake was made…the person who made the mistake no longer works for the city,” Spring said.
Henke did not respond to a request for an interview.
A Quincy business owner is upset with the way the City of Quincy is handling the bid process for a public awareness campaign.
Kevin Reed of Reed Promotional Media was one of four bidders to submit bids to the City to develop a Quincy Safe Routes to School promotional campaign.
The City received a $100,000 federal grant last year. It is a federal grant that is still administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The grant covers LED stop sign paddles being used by crossing guards, 15 new solar powered speed boards and the development of a public awareness campaign that includes creation of the ads and purchasing broadcast and print advertising to help get kids to school safely In February, the City advertised for bids in the Quincy Herald-Whig.
But on January 16, Rachel Henke, Community Development Coordinator in the City’s Department of Planning & Development, sent an email to Ryan Stark of Stark’s Studios asking him to provide a quote:
“Under the City’s Ordinance, professional services like this do not require quotes. However, with this being a federal grant we need a few quotes.
The breakdown is as follows:
(Consulting) Branding & Identity Consultations- name, slogan, tagline, mascot, and general “idea” of the program.
(Promotion) 2 Commercials- write, direct, shoot, edit, and promote 2 professional commercials.
(Education) 2 brochures, 2 mini-booklets, stickers, banners, signage, & badges- design items and collaborate to create an agenda for events.
(Printing) Print all materials designed under Education.
Essentially this is for the City of Quincy Safe Routes to School Program. If you could please email me a quote from Stark’s Studios with the 4 components each having an individual price, that would be great. I realize sub-contracting would be needed for the printing. I would most appreciate it if the total cost of the 4 components would be $40,000 or more.”
Reed became aware of the Henke/Stark e-mail conversation because Stark came to Reed looking for help on the project.
“Ryan works at Best Buy and shoots wedding videos,” Reed said. “He realized this was a pretty big project and asked for some advice.”
Reed said in his conversation with Stark, he was led to believe that Rokusek Design was involved in the project and had submitted an initial bid in the neighborhood of $40,000, which was the amount Henke requested Stark to submit.
This bid had not yet been advertised compelling Reed to call Director of Administrative Services Gary Sparks, for more details on the project.
“I will assure you we will be advertising for competitive proposal (sic) in the very near future,” Sparks wrote in response to Reed’s inquiry.
Bevelheimer said there was discussion of using the city’s professional services clause on the project early on, but then the administration decided to go through the bid process.
“The administration was not comfortable using the professional services clause,” Bevelheimer said.
Bids were posted in the newspaper on February 3 and four local advertising agencies submitted bids that were opened in the Quincy City Council chambers on February 13:
Rethink Media: $6,200
Reed Professional Media: $14,300
Rokusek Design: $30,500
Representatives from both RPM and Rethink were present for the bid opening on February 13. Chuck Bevelheimer, Quincy’s Director of Planning and Development, was surprised by the range of bids and later told the Quincy City Council’s Finance Committee that he didn’t believe all of the company’s that submitted the bids understood the scope of the project. Bevelheimer asked the Committee to throw out the bids, which they did, allowing Bevelheimer to work with the Quincy Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Great River Economic Development Foundation to craft a more comprehensive bid.
But at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting, Bevelheimer changed course and asked the committee to accept AdForce’s low bid. He said Sparks and Mayor John Spring told him he should interview AdForce officials to see if they understood the project.
“We interviewed the low bidder to see if they were qualified,” Bevelheimer said. “We went through every element of the bid process. Doug Olson (City of Quincy human resources director) and Maggie Strong (with GREDF) were also part of the interview process. We spoke with accounts they (AdForce) had and verified their work was in good standing.”
The Finance Committee accepted Bevelheimer’s recommendation and the City Council will vote to accept the $2,900 bid next Monday night.
Bevelheimer said the contract only calls for the design of the broadcast and print promotions and does not include the cost of purchasing the television, newspaper ads or brochures.
“It’s for two television spots and integration of the print literature,” he said.
Kevin Reed (RPM) and Susan Till of Rethink Media said they were never contacted by the City that the bids were being thrown out, but then City officials decided to interview AdForce representatives regarding their low bid. Reed said he learned of it by reading a story on the Finance Committee meeting on QuincyJournal.com.
Reed said he had a conversation with Ann Scott, the City’s Comptroller and Director of Purchasing, after he learned of Bevelheimer’s action. Reed then fired off the following e-mail to Scott and Sparks:
“Supposedly, the information that was furnished to the vendors may have been "unclear" and resulted in a wide dollar variance of bids.…but, in my view, everyone was furnished the same info, and had the same opportunity to ask questions for clarification to bid correctly.
Initially, I had issues with how the project was handled with it NOT being put out for bids. One vendor (Rokusek Design) was going to be given the bid based on a fake higher bid being requested from another small marketing firm.
I forwarded that email documentation to you, Gary, and this was the basis for my previous meeting with you.
Now, it seems that Rokusek Design (the initial lone bidder in the process) has submitted the highest bid by a two-fold margin over the next highest bidder…AND will be given the opportunity to bid once again…their 3rd time total.
(Their last bid WAS REDUCED by almost 25% over their initial unopposed bid, but is still substantially higher that (sic) the others. In fact, it is still higher than ALL the other bids combined.)
The RPM bid was the average bid price submitted for everyone involved, and may now very well become the barometer for the other bids when re-submitted going forward.
This process has become tainted enough that I am doubting the validity of the parameters in place. I get the impression that this process will continue to be adjusted until the city's initial choice is finally awarded the bid.
At the very least, they will have the unfair advantage of multiple bidding opportunities, seeing what their competition is submitting, and adjusting their bid accordingly once again.”
Reed said his company would not have participated in a re-bid for this project, citing ethical concerns he has with the bidding process.