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County to rebid Jail food pact

Thursday, August 26, 2004
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

Cook County will rebid a controversial contract to provide food service at the jail, officials said Thursday.
Acting after only incumbent Aramark Correctional Services submitted a qualified bid for a new $50-million, 4-year pact, officials said Aramark’s current contract will be extended two or three months while the county again advertises for competitors.

The county actually received two bids by the Thursday morning deadline, one from Aramark and another from a division of Flying Tiger Corp., according to the spokeswoman for County President John Stroger. But Flying Tiger was disqualified because it failed to attend a mandatory pre-bid conference, the spokeswoman continued.
That left Aramark alone, and under county procedures the county rebids in such instances.

The pending contract has drawn public attention since Crain’s reported in this week’s issue that another potential bidder, a division of Compass Group plc, was pulling out and complaining of “flawed and biased” county procurement procedures.

Aramark employs two former aides to the jail's boss, County Sheriff Michael Sheahan, and Compass alleges that officials repeatedly failed to give it the information it needed to submit a competitive bid.

Spokeswomen for Mr. Sheahan and Mr. Stroger suggested the other was responsible for any problems, with an official at Aramark accusing Compass of “sour grapes.”

Lawrence Suffredin, the County commissioner who presided over Thursday’s bid opening, says he does not know who is telling the truth but said officials “have got to be aggressive in getting other companies to bid.

“The Compass people have raised some questions. We need transparency,” Mr. Suffredin said. “You would think there’d be a lot of competition for this contract,” he added. “It’s a very straight forward contract. We’ve been feeding prisoners since the 1800s.”




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