Court halts bidding on O’Hare landscaping deal

By Staff | June 12, 2014

The Quinlan Law Firm in the news: Stories of successful Quinlan Law Firm clients.
Published at Crain’s Chicago Business, June 12, 2014

Court halts bidding on O’Hare landscaping deal

By Greg Hinz
January 3, 2014

A messy dispute over who will plant flowers and do other landscaping tasks at Chicago’s airports has ended up in court, and, perhaps not surprisingly in Chicago, the flap involves some big political names.

At issue in a case filed in Cook County Circuit Court is the status of a five-year, $12 million pact for “comprehensive landscape services” at O’Hare and Midway airports awarded in late 2011 to CityEscape Garden & Design LLC.

CityEscape is owned by Connie Rivera, a friend of former mayor Richard M. Daley. She won the pact from incumbent airport vendor Christy Webber Landscapes, which employs former top Daley aide Terry Teele as its lobbyist.

The CityEscape pact runs through December 2016, but this fall, the city — without formally canceling the pact — moved to rebid it. The new bids are scheduled to be opened today.

In its court action, CityEscape contends that the city is effectively terminating the contract without providing the firm “due process, including a meaningful opportunity to be heard and defend itself.”

“The city acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner,” says CityEscape lawyer Bill Quinlan, whose father once served as the city’s top lawyer. “If they have a problem with performance, there are mechanisms to deal with it short of rebidding it.”

He added, “If you let them do this, they can rebid any contract they want for any reason.”

A city spokeswoman would not confirm that the city has decided to cancel the pact, saying only, “The contract language allows the city to rebid and explore other options for providing these services.”

But company owner Ms. Rivera, in a deposition filed in court, says she was told her company had not spent adequate time on the contract and was advised to accept a buyout, or the city “would make the remaining term of the contract and relationship with CityEscape extremely difficult.”

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Pantle yesterday denied CityEscape’s motion for a temporary restraining order against new bids, ruling that it was preliminary, but left the case open for possible further action a little later.

Mr. Quinlan said yesterday’s decision will be appealed.

A city spokesman said he could confirm only that the new bids are scheduled to be opened today. “Beyond that, I do not know,” he said.

Ms. Webber, like Ms. Rivera, holds contracts with the Chicago Park District and other agencies. In a phone call, she said she was sorry to lose the contract in 2011 to CityEscape and now is bidding to regain it. But Ms. Webber added that she considers Ms. Rivera to be a friend, and that she in fact helped Ms. Rivera start up her business.

Whatever happens will not affect O’Hare’s famous grass-eating goats. They work directly for the Department of Aviation and are not part of the master landscaping contract.

Read more: