Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Township supervisor scraps bids and hires employee to oversee new township building and move

In one of his first big moves, Orland Township Supervisor Paul O'Grady scraped the approved contracts for the new township building and created a new township job salaried at $50,000 a year that he gave to Angela Ryan, a candidate nominated by a partner in his law firm at Querrey & Harrow. Ryan will oversee the building and transition to the new township building, a plan originally started by his predecessor Robert Maher.

O'Grady acknowledged the position was not put out to bid and not posted public for residents of the township to apply for the position. He defended that saying Ryan was placed on the township payroll as an employee, presumably with full employee benefits, with the support of the Township Board.

"Her position is not a contract position. She will be a full time township employee. However, with that said, we will be launching our new web site in the next 30 days which will include an area to respond to RFP's/RFQ's," O'Grady explained in an email.

"She was referred to me by one of my law partners," O'Grady said.

O'Grady said Ryan was not a contributor to his campaign. "I recommended her to the board. ... I interviewed her for over an hour in addition to speaking with her on the phone. In my judgment she had good people skills. She communicated well, described past job accomplishments, and made a positive presentation which led me to the conclusion that she had good people skills and was competent."

The move raised eyebrows. O'Grady, Maher's camp argued, accused them of doing the exact same thing when Maher hired an architect referred to him by associates. Although Ryan is not related to anyone on the board or in the township, O'Grady acknowledged she has no construction experience, a point that has raised concerns in the township.

Ryan's hiring will also give O'Grady direct control in the awarding of the lucrative contract, already approved by the prior board. Seven contractors had vyed for the contract in an open process with bids ranging between $400,000 and $600,000. A new contractor is expected to be hired next month raising questions about the bidding process itself.

In other media reports, O'Grady acknowledged she has no construction experience, but will serve as a "point person/liaison" for the renovation plan.

"Her primary responsibilities will be to work on the new building project. This entails the bid and completion of the build out, the sale of the current building, and the logistics of the move. This will ensure Township services continue uninterrupted during the transition. Ultimately, the Board decided it was more beneficial to pay someone to get this done than to sit on two buildings indefinitely," O'Grady said.

"Additionally, she will work on the General Assistance project to help those who need it and oversee the rewriting of the General Assistance guidelines. She will also coordinate our new jobs training program. Finally, she will be doing other special projects as they arise, most notably the organization of the Township ordinances. At this point it is unclear where the ordinances are even located."

O'Grady blamed it all on his precedessor, asserting the building plan had remained stagnant and describing the bids as "incomplete."

"This was evidenced by the recent re-bid of the building after the incomplete bid packets sat untouched for months. We promised the voters to get this done," O'Grady asserted.

The transition between O'Grady and Maher was very bitter. O'Grady's campaign engaged in very tough and critical attacks that Maher called "throwing mud" and that "avoided" the issues.

Ryan begins her new job this week.

-- Ray Hanania

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