Wednesday, July 25, 2012

University Of Illinois To Rebid Tainted Architecture Contract

University of Illinois Trustees voted last week to rescind and rebid a controversial $4.6 million architecture contract awarded to BLDD Architects for renovation of the Urbana campus Natural History Building, now partly closed and crumbling 120 years after it was first built. The tainted contract was originally awarded to BLDD, where architect Bruce Maxey owns 8.9% of the company, and is married to U of I’s associate director of planning Jill Maxey, who is in charge of campus construction. Jill Maxey has been reassigned to a different job on campus.

According to board Chairman Christopher Kennedy, “It was a short discussion. We don’t want any more ethical issues associated with the university. We get public money and we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.” Before the Trustees’ vote, university administrators had twice refused to go along with a Procurement Policy Board recommendation that the tainted contract be cancelled because of ethical violations. Randy West of BLDD said of the Trustees’ action: “While we are saddened by today’s decision, we are gratified that all involved agree that BLDD made all required disclosures, showing its strong commitment to transparency throughout the process.” Of course, in Illinois, the disclosure that “We have clout and the inside track to this contract,” is apparently all that is required to be “ethical” when it comes to taking millions of taxpayer dollars.

According to Mike Bass, the university’s senior associate vice president for building and financial services, rebidding the contract may delay the project and add to the cost of renovations. Any such added costs should be recovered from the Maxey family and any other university officials involved in letting this sordid episode run on for years before correcting the obvious ethical lapses.

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