A Cicero-based construction company that filed a formal protest last month after the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees awarded a construction contract for its new facility to the second-lowest bidder, has now appealed to the director of the Illinois State Library to intervene.
In a March 2 letter to Illinois State Library Director Greg McCormick, the attorney for ALL Construction Group claimed that Brookfield Library officials violated state competitive bidding laws and requested that McCormick order the project re-bid.
In response to a request for comment by the Landmark, McCormick acknowledged the bid protest and said more information was being sought.
“The Office of the Secretary of State, Illinois State Library, is aware of the bid protest and allegations filed by ALL Construction Group with the Brookfield Public Library,” McCormick wrote. “In response, a letter requesting further information from the Brookfield Public Library director and Board of Trustees has been issued by the assistant general counsel assigned to this matter by the Secretary of State’s Executive Inspector General.”
Attorney Ricardo Meza, who represents ALL Construction Group, approached the Illinois State Library because the agency had awarded a $125,000 Live and Learn Construction Grant to the Brookfield Public Library in 2019 to help fund construction of a new 21,000-square-foot facility at 3541 Park Ave.
The Linda Sokol Francis Brookfield Library, named in honor of the benefactor who donated $1 million toward the cause, is scheduled to break ground in April.
On Feb. 12, the library board awarded an $8.4 million construction contract to IHC Construction Companies LLC, of Elgin. That bid was about $93,000 higher than ALL Construction’s.
According to Meza, by accepting a state construction grant, the Brookfield Library Board of Trustees was required to accept the lowest responsible bid, which he says was submitted by ALL Construction.
Meza also amplified the allegation made in his client’s formal protest, that Brookfield Library owner’s representative Dan Eallonardo essentially steered the construction contract to IHC, his longtime former employer. Eallonardo has not worked for IHC since 2011.
In his letter to McCormick, Meza references a July 9, 2019 email Eallonardo sent to the library’s architects and Brookfield Library Director Kim Coughran, which revealed that IHC had been provided with an independent cost estimate of the project and had submitted its own estimate of cost “as well as some unit costs.”
The Brookfield Library Board did not seek competitive bids until early 2020.
In that July 2019 email, Eallonardo also noted that IHC “would not include general conditions for more than the 13-month schedule because they felt it would push their bid higher than the other bidders, but they would aggressively pursue additional time for changes and delays and would expect the owner to pay extended general conditions for that extended time.”
“In other words,” Meza wrote to the Illinois State Library director, “six months before the request for proposal was issued to the public asking for sealed bids, Brookfield Library, through their owner’s representative and with full knowledge of the Brookfield Library’s director, provided IHC with the actual cost estimates of the library project.”
Meza added, “This is exactly the sort of unfair tactic(s) that state law seeks to prohibit through competitive bidding,”
Roger Ritzman, the attorney for the Brookfield Public Library, rejected those claims in separate emails to both Meza and McCormick.
Ritzman explained in his email to Meza that Eallonardo expressed concern about the cost estimates he received in June 2019 from a consultant hired to compile those figures, and that Eallonardo reached out to two contractors, IHC and Camosy Construction, for a second opinion. At the time Eallonardo was working with both firms on other library construction projects. IHC responded to that request; Camosy declined.
To both Meza and McCormick, Ritzman reiterated what he believed to be the actual reason the Brookfield Library Board of Trustees rejected ALL Construction’s bid: The company was not qualified to do the job.
“All bidders should have evaluated whether their experience met the qualifications,” Ritzman wrote to McCormick on March 4, adding, “Re-bidding would not change the bidder qualifications. The bidder qualifications in the specifications were established to assure that bidders have the experience deemed necessary by the library and its architect to do the project.”
McCormick declined to comment further on ALL Construction’s allegations at this time.
“The Live and Learn grant issued to Brookfield Public Library requires compliance with all state laws, including the Illinois Grant Funds Recovery Act (30 ILCS 705/),” McCormick wrote. “As this is still an investigative matter, it is premature for the Office of the Secretary of State, Illinois State Library, to have formed an opinion.”