Documents continue to suggest housing authority’s pattern of partiality toward its IT vendor

In June, the DeKalb Park District approved a contract with Sundog IT, the company owned by DeKalb’s mayor, Cohen Barnes. We opposed the deal for reasons of conflicts of interests, but the district did run a request for proposal (RFP) bidding process and the buck did stop with the park district board, as one would expect.

Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb, Illinois (HACD) has a similar arrangement with Sundog IT for services. However, there is no evidence among documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that an RFP process was followed or that the housing authority board voted on the deal.

Question: Why did the park district run an RFP selection process for IT services but HACD did not?

Answer: HACD probably should have done an RFP.

It’s admittedly difficult to determine what staff at HACD think they are doing, because the organization has an ongoing issue with retention and/or retrieval of documents. (It reminds me of the City of DeKalb’s mess of a forensic audit of its TIF funds.) For example, there are emails between Sundog president Cohen Barnes and HACD staff that discussed updating a service agreement in 2017, but when FOIA’d, HACD could not produce the actual contract. What’s more, HACD spent more than $80,000 on products and services from Sundog in calendar year 2017 but none of these payments had identifying numbers for cross-checking to contracts and purchase/work orders.

FOIA-10-emails-totalcarecontract-1-13-17

FOIA-7-2016-2017-invoices-incl-server

By the way, $80,000 is considered a “small purchase” under the procurement rules. Here’s a charted summary of current procurement procedure:

Procurement-Process-Chart

The procurement tiers change from time to time. In 2016, when HACD was gathering quotes for a new server, the “small purchase” classification began at $3,500. The server was expected to cost more than that, and that’s why HACD obtained three quotes before making the purchase even though they’d already made up their minds to buy from Sundog.

One of our FOIA requesters obtained HACD’s list of RFP contractors from 2015 to 2021 and found other ways HACD treated Sundog differently as a vendor. Small purchases are documented on this list along with contracts required to be approved at the end of an RFP process. We notice HACD uses RFPs for purchases in the “small” range for recurring services such as legal representation and audits that come to less than $20,000 for the contract term, even though they’re not required to do so according to the chart. Sundog does not appear on the list, despite currently delivering some $4,800 per month in IT and phone services and periodically providing hardware as well.

I’ve placed the contractor list (an Excel spreadsheet) at the City Barbs Blog Facebook Group for downloading.

A document that is supposed to pass for the current contract was apparently signed in 2019. It lacks details and does not seem to conform to federal standards for required contract clauses. HACD’s executive director told our requester that the agreement is good for five years, in which case it’s worth well over the $100,000 threshold that should trigger requirements for an RFP and board approval — just as Sundog’s arrangement with DeKalb Park District did.

FOIA-2-Sundog-Contract-2019

Somebody needs to explain whatever mechanism is functioning as an exemption to an RFP. Until then, I’ll keep exploring the records.