Calumet City, under the leadership of Mayor Thaddeus Jones, has come under scrutiny for its spending habits and possible conflicts of interest involving engineering and architecture firm Farnsworth Group. While Farnsworth was appointed by Mayor Jones to serve as the city engineer, it has also been winning a significant number of contracts for engineering and architecture work. This has raised questions about whether there is a conflict of interest at play.
Since May 2021, Farnsworth has been assisting Calumet City in the bid selection process for construction projects. Their role includes putting projects out for bid, vetting the bids, and determining the qualified lowest bidder. However, Farnsworth itself also submits bids for engineering and architecture work that their firm specializes in, potentially creating a conflict of interest.
Records obtained by The Daily Southtown reveal that out of the $2.64 million spent on engineering and architecture work from May 2021 to August 2023, $2.06 million, or 78%, went to Farnsworth. The remaining 22% was divided among five other firms. The figures do not clearly distinguish between bid consulting and professional services work.
While Farnsworth claims that the bid selection process is transparent and involves City Council deliberation and voting, several aldermen and the city clerk have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency. They argue that the City Council is often left in the dark about contract decisions until they appear on the monthly list of bills to vote on.
In contrast to the previous city engineer, Robinson Engineering, where bids were publicly advertised and the entire bid process was documented, the current process with Farnsworth lacks similar transparency. Aldermen have called for greater clarity and involvement in the contractor selection process to avoid any conflicts of interest.
The controversy surrounding Calumet City’s contracting practices highlights the importance of transparency and accountability in public procurement. It is crucial for municipalities to ensure that bid processes are conducted openly, allowing for fair competition and avoiding potential conflicts of interest.
1. Who appointed Farnsworth Group as the city engineer of Calumet City?
Farnsworth Group was appointed by Calumet City Mayor Thaddeus Jones to be the city engineer.
2. Has Farnsworth Group won a large portion of the engineering and architecture contracts in Calumet City?
Yes, Farnsworth Group has won a significant number of engineering and architecture contracts in Calumet City, which has raised concerns about a possible conflict of interest.
3. How much money has Calumet City spent on engineering and architecture work since May 2021?
Calumet City has spent $2.64 million on engineering and architecture work from May 2021 to August 2023.
4. What percentage of that amount went to Farnsworth Group?
Out of the total spending, $2.06 million, or 78%, went to Farnsworth Group.
5. Why are there concerns about the transparency of the bid process?
City aldermen and the city clerk have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in the bid process, with some contracts being awarded without the City Council’s knowledge or involvement. They argue that the previous city engineer had a more transparent process, including public advertising of bids and City Council oversight.
6. What is the importance of transparency in public procurement?
Transparency in public procurement ensures fairness, accountability, and the avoidance of conflicts of interest. It allows for open competition and provides confidence to the public that taxpayer funds are being used responsibly.
Source: The Chicago Tribune