Appeal from Circuit Court of Adams County. No. 97CH13. Honorable Mark A. Schuering, Judge Presiding.
Honorable Rita B. Garman, J., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, P.j. - Concur, Honorable Frederick S. Green, J. - Concur. Justice Garman delivered the opinion of the court. Steigman, P.j., and Green, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garman
The Honorable Justice GARMAN delivered the opinion of the court:
Doyle Plumbing and Heating Company (Doyle), based in Jacksonville, Illinois, submitted the lowest bid on a boiler replacement project for the Board of Education, Quincy Public School District No. 172 (Board), but was not awarded the contract. Rather, the Board voted to award the contract to E.A. Wand Plumbing & Heating Company (Wand), a corporation based in Quincy, which bid $3,855 more than Doyle. Doyle sued Wand and the Board, alleging a violation of section 10-20.21 of the School Code (Code) (105 ILCS 5/10-20.21 (West 1994)), a competitive bidding statute. The circuit court of Adams County held for Doyle and ordered the Board to grant it the contract. The Board and Wand appeal. We affirm.
In the summer of 1996, the Board authorized a project to replace the boilers in Quincy Junior High School. It hired Architechnics, Inc., to design and coordinate the project. In January 1997, Architechnics solicited bids in the Quincy Herald-Whig (the local Quincy paper). Todd Moore, an engineer with Architechnics, also contacted some firms by phone to inform them of the project because he wanted to be sure to get more than one bid on it. One of the contractors he contacted was Doyle. Doyle bought the bid specifications, attended meetings in Quincy relating to the project, and decided to submit a bid, as did Wand and three other firms.
In February, Architechnics opened and tabulated the bids. Doyle's bid of $416,895 was the lowest, followed closely by Wand's bid of $420,750. However, the building committee of the Board recommended that the Board award the contract to Wand, because of the travel time between Jacksonville and Quincy.
After he threatened litigation, Ed Doyle was allowed to attend a special meeting of the Board on February 26. He was allowed to make a presentation about Doyle and say why he felt it was qualified to do the work, but was not allowed to discuss technical aspects of the boilers; his request to have engineers present at the meeting was denied. Ed testified Doyle had done similar work, both installation and servicing, for a number of other entities over a geographical area ranging from Maywood and Melrose Park in the Chicago area to Paris, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana, in the east, to Pike County and Macomb in the west and even into Missouri for commissioning services. He had told the Board his response time was "well within industry standards" and service on the boilers was "so easily handled it means nothing to take care of this job." He also noted that although he "cannot put an 18,000[-]pound boiler in [his] truck," he could and did take replacement scanners, programmers, pressure controllers--the life's breath of that system"--with him when he made service calls. He felt Doyle had the ability to successfully complete the project and service the boilers once installed. He did tell the Board it could realistically take as long as 2 1/2 hours to get someone on site in response to a service call (even though Jacksonville is only 75 miles from Quincy), because it could take some time to get someone on the road.
James Citro is the chair of the building committee and one of the members of the Board who voted in favor of giving the contract to Wand. He testified since he knew nothing about boilers, he was concerned about any possible impact the 1 1/2-hour delay would have, and what risk the Board might be taking in giving Doyle the contract. He asked Ed at the meeting if he would be willing to insure them against the risk of their losing a day's state aid "or any other damage that might occur because of that hour and a half window." When Ed responded that he did guarantee his work, Citro clarified that he "wasn't talking about his work; I was talking about--because he does know boilers--anything else that might happen as a result of that hour and a half; could he ensure [sic] us against that risk?" Citro testified that when Ed said he could not do so, his response was "If he couldn't take that risk, why should I?" He did not ask Wand to insure them in the event that damages were incurred because of a delay in response to a service call; what he was asking Ed to insure against was "the risk of the hour and a half travel time that exists between Jacksonville and Quincy. That is the risk I was concerned about. That's the risk that doesn't exist for Wand, and that was the difference.
The Board gave the project to Wand, by a vote of 4 to 2 (one member not present). All of the members who voted to give the project to Wand testified they did so because of concerns about "serviceability." However, none of the members had any reason to doubt Doyle was qualified to service the boilers. Their concerns stemmed, rather, from the 1 1/2-hour travel time between Jacksonville and Quincy, and the possibility that the school might have to be shut down (with a resulting loss of state funding) because of that delay.
The circuit court held for Doyle. It found the Board members who voted for Wand were acting in good faith, but concluded the "discretionary power was not properly utilized," and it had resulted in a "manifest injustice." It granted Doyle declaratory judgment, mandamus and a preliminary injunction, and required the Board to award the project to Doyle, which it declared to be "the lowest responsible bidder pursuant to statute."
A. The Competitive Bidding Statute
The Board was required to comply with the competitive bidding section of the Code (105 ILCS 5/10-20.21 (West 1994)) in awarding the contract in this case. Section ...