Several months after a Pace manager was arrested for allegedly accepting more than $280,000 in kickbacks for helping vendors secure contracts at the suburban bus agency, a former high-ranking Pace employee has filed a lawsuit claiming even more widespread procurement problems exist there.
Susan Jung Lundy, who was previously a manager of the purchasing department at Pace, said she was demoted and then fired in 2014 in retaliation for blowing the whistle on violations of competitive bidding rules, the July complaint says.
While still working at Pace, Lundy reported to the agency’s ethics officer that Pace Executive Director Thomas J. Ross and other employees shared “confidential information about the bidding process with board members during an open procurement,” according to the lawsuit. She also said she was told to post a bid on the agency’s website before it was published in a newspaper, which violates department policies, the suit alleges.
At least one vendor had been given information about a bid before it was advertised, according to the lawsuit.
I would say that there are some top-level managers there that don’t feel like they need to or want to follow policies.
Susan Jung Lundy
Certain purchases and contracts that exceed $40,000 “shall be accomplished by free and open competitive bidding after advertisement,” according to Pace documents. The rule exists not only to ensure the best price but also to prevent insiders from gaining an unfair advantage when it comes to winning public contracts.
It’s unclear what specific bids and projects were involved in Lundy’s allegations.
Lundy, who was making $107,000 a year, also claims in the suit that she was discriminated against for being an Asian-American woman and said her male co-workers were paid more despite having fewer responsibilities.
“I would say that there are some top-level managers there that don’t feel like they need to or want to follow policies,” Lundy said when reached by phone.
A spokesman for Pace declined to comment on the allegations, citing pending litigation.
Questions surrounding contracting first surfaced in April when Rajinder Sachdeva, who was another Pace manager, was arrested for allegedly accepting more than $280,000 in kickbacks for helping certain IT companies get hired by Pace.
Sachdeva has pleaded not guilty. His attorney declined to comment, as did the U.S. attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case. Pace said it is working with authorities during the ongoing investigation.
There’s no indication Lundy’s allegations are part of that federal probe.
Meanwhile, documents obtained by the Better Government Association through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act show Pace has been paying some hefty legal bills in recent months: More than $500,000 to the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels since December 2014.
The invoices released to the BGA have been heavily redacted with no specific explanation other than “for professional services rendered.”
But at least part of that tab appears to involve Lundy’s allegations, with the Pace spokesman saying the firm was hired to follow the agency’s ethics ordinance, which says independent counsel should be appointed to investigate allegations involving the executive director or board members.
This isn’t the first time Pace has been tight-lipped about the agency’s operations. In 2012, the BGA requested documents through FOIA related to bus accidents and drug tests, and Pace did not comply until the BGA sued for the records. The BGA sued again a year later when Pace refused to turn over payroll records in a usable format.