You could have fried an egg on Porter County Council President Dan Whitten’s
head last Thursday.
Whitten and a few other members of the Council hit their boiling points when
it was confirmed that bids for the commissioners’ contract for a firm to do
a preliminary study on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance
project were not collected, as County Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center,
said they were during last Tuesday’s Council meeting.
Adams told the council “five bids” came in when asked by the council if bids
were collected for the study which could cost up to $150,000.
Under the belief bids were collected, the council voted to fund the project
5-1 using county income tax money with a skeptical Whitten, D-at large,
voting no. On Thursday, he and Council member Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, went to
ask for the bids and discovered there were none.
“I can tolerate a lot of things but one thing I will not tolerate is being
lied to by another elected official. If I ask a question, I expect the
truth,” Whitten told the Tribune on Friday. Both he and Rivas said
they were “livid” over what seemed to be catching Adams telling a fib.
“It’s frustrating. We need to be working together in attempting to solve a
lot of issues we have. But the trust doesn’t come through from little things
like this,” said Rivas.
The discovery came a week after the State Board of Accounts told the county
it was not in compliance with a statute for purchasing audio equipment worth
$150,000 for the Memorial Opera House in May 2011 without there being a
formal bidding and contract process. State law requires that purchases of
$50,000 or more be put up for bids.
But Adams explained to the Tribune her word usage was not an
intentional lie but a mistake on her part. The county sent out a Request for
Qualifications, not for bid proposals.
“It was my bad. I should have said qualifications but instead I said bids,”
She further explained that the request was for professional services, not a
purchase, so bids are not required by state law as for the roof repairs to
be done on the county courthouse.
A committee made up of personnel from the county highway, parks and planning
departments looked over the qualifications and recommended American
Structure Point of Indianapolis, Adams said.
Adams said she was also “caught off guard” Tuesday and was not prepared to
put forward the $150,000 request to the Council, although it was on the
agenda. Adams was called in from the rotunda to the Commissioner’s Chambers
to answer questions the Council had about the ADA project. That’s when she
made the mistake of calling the qualifications “bids.”
But does Adams’ account hold up? Here is what can be found in the
Commissioners’ meeting minutes:
• On May 1, Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson came to the
board of Commissioners to start putting in place a plan to be in compliance
with new regulations of the ADA. From what Thompson learned through the
Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, all governments in Indiana
are mandated to have self-evaluated inventories of all county facilities,
sidewalks and roadways in place by Dec. 31 of this year or they will no
longer be eligible to receive grant money from the Federal Highway
The commissioners on May 1 ordered a Request for Proposals be put out to
start the search for a consultant.
• At the June 5 Commissioners meeting, Thompson informed the commissioners
that he had developed a RFQ in lieu of an RFP to “look at different
alternatives in how the county wants to go about this.” The RFQ is ordered
by the commissioners to be released.
• Five submittals from the RFQ were reported to the Commissioners by
Thompson at the board’s July 3 meeting, three from firms in Indiana, one
from California and another from Colorado.
Thompson reported there was a committee formed of representatives from
various departments to look over the submittals and give the commissioners a
• On Aug. 21, Thompson came back with the committee’s recommendation of
American Structure Point of Indianapolis, which submitted a bid of $116,000
for the work. The commissioners vote to accept the bid and to go to the
Council at their September meeting for the funding.
While it appears that Adams just misspoke, there is still a lesson here on
how business should be conducted between the Council and the Commissioners,
Whitten and Rivas argue.
“When we make decisions, we want to make sure we are making the best ones
for the county. I want to know that it’s done right. I think the taxpayers
expect us to do that,” Whitten said.
Whitten said he has since talked with Adams and the two will be in better
“We’ve got to be honest with each other. That’s the long and short of it,”
Agreeing was Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, who was also startled
by the confusion.
“We can only take action on what we are told,” said Graham.
Rivas said he would like to see the county put in its own policies to seek
bids on things he thinks are important such as employee health insurance,
which he said has not been put to bid since 2005, and building liability
“Even if the law doesn’t dictate it, if something is so large we should bid
it out in some way,” he said.
Whitten said he does not plan to rescind the $150,000 given the time
constraints for the project. Adams said she expects the project will not
cost the full amount since some of the work can be done in-house.