• Tricia Babischkin

How 'Lucky' Can Our Village Get?

When I sat in front of the Huntley Starbucks in June with Mr. Berman, one of the things he said to me was how lucky we are to have Jeannine Smith as our CAO. I didn't even know half of what I know now back then and I questioned his statement -- how lucky could we possibly be? I've repeatedly questioned her work product as being sub-standard and frankly, had she worked for me, she would have been put on a Performance Improvement Plan for submitting a budget that does not add and has typographical errors all through it.


But then I read her Marketing Request for Proposal (RFP) -- no, really read it. I get, that just yesterday I was questioning the legality of it, the timing, and even what was requested. But then I got to really reading it. I looked at it from the perspective of a marketing agency that might respond to this RFP -- since that is one of the things my day job has me doing on occasions. That's when I really got to questioning the requests in this RFP -- it just didn't sound like someone knew what they were asking for when you consider a village our size.


Well, a sharp-eyed resident found that this RFP was not in fact her work. It appears that in 2017 The Illinois Treasurer's Office put out an RFP for a remarkably similar set of needs -- so similar in fact that a comparison checker looked like this:

The RFP CAO Smith has published is 82% the same as the RFP from Jim Underwood from 2017 -- even down to the times of meetings and responses, though the dates were changed.


On the surface, you might argue that this was resourceful because she used the old one as a template for essentially the same services -- but there's two things wrong with this argument:

  1. Why would the Village of Lakewood, a tiny municipality of 3,800 residents need the same scope of work that the Treasurer's Office for the entire state of Illinois needs -- noting that the main goal of his RFP was to promote various financial programs available through the state ranging from Unclaimed Property to Epay to College Savings to various retirement programs?

  2. Using another RFP as a template for your own, only really works if you know what the line items in the scope really mean so you can edit them appropriately. But the real risk here is that the marketing agencies, who do this for a living, will see that you have no understanding of what you are asking for -- this is not a strong position to be negotiating a contract from.

Critical to any RFP is the Scope of Work outlined -- Here's the Village of Lakewood Scope when run through a comparison engine -- every thing in red is a direct copy from the 2017 RFP:

So, since this RFP is essentially asking for the same scope, let's see what the winning bid for that RFP cost:

Yes, you read that right -- $303,000. What I find interesting is that the hourly rate listed is $250/hr. This means that the agency estimates that this work would take 1,060 hours. As the scope of the two RFPs are very similar only scale would affect these hours. Even if our village actually used ONE QUARTER of the work as outlined, this RFP has the potential to cost the Village $62,500.


Additionally, a year after the Treasurer's Office awarded the bid for marketing services, the same services outlined in the Village of Lakewood's RFP, the contract was amended for an additional $300,000 in services, plus $2.8 million for the media buys:


Remember this is a highly compensated professional. Her answer to putting together analysis of the marketing needs for this village of 3,800 residents is to copy and paste a bloated Request from a State-wide agency. And then barely edit it.


Just keeping score our CAO has failed to provide a Zoom experience that works for the pubic to participate in our local government meetings (per multiple AG instructions); she has failed to produce a budget that adds correctly, that contains the proper prior year final numbers, and is not keeping up with the needed budget amendments to cover the over spending of the board; as our Finance Director, she fails to actually produce our financials; and she has the highest turnover rate of any village in the surrounding area by 4 fold. Yes, Mr. Berman, if we are lucky to have her -- I'd really like to begin exploring what unlucky without her looks like.


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