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Thompson Electronics Co. v. Easter Owens/Integrated Systems Inc.

November 06, 1998

THOMPSON ELECTRONICS COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
EASTER OWENS/INTEGRATED SYSTEMS, INC., AND WILL) COUNTY PUBLIC BUILDING) COMMISSION, A BODY CORPORATE AND POLITIC, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Breslin

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois

No. 97--MR--12996

Honorable William Penn Judge, Presiding

We are asked to determine whether the Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security and Locksmith Act of 1993 (Act)(225 ILCS 446/1 et seq. (West 1996)) requires a private alarm contractor to be licensed at the time the contractor bids on a project. We must also consider whether the Will County Public Building Commission (Commission) abused its discretion in letting a bid to Integrated Systems, Inc. (ISI), an unlicensed alarm contractor, as the lowest responsible bidder. The trial court determined that a license is not required at the time of bidding and that the Commission's decision to award the project to ISI was not an abuse of discretion. We agree and affirm.

BACKGROUND

In July of 1997, the Commission advertised for bids for the performance of work relative to a security communications system for a new juvenile Justice center. Among others, Thompson Electronics and ISI received bid specifications and bid on the project. The Commission's bid package provided, in part: "The eligibility of each trade contractor will be determined upon past experience, trade references, bonding capacity, current work capacity and financial stability." The specifications did not require that a bidder be an Illinois licensed private alarm contractor. A majority of the contractors who bid on the project, including ISI, were not licensed in Illinois at the time of bidding.

Prior to bidding on the Will County project, ISI installed security systems at public facilities in Kane and Lake Counties without a license. The record does not indicate whether it was known that ISI completed those projects without a license, but due to its work on those projects ISI was prequalified by a certified security consultant to bid on the Commission's project. At the time of bidding, ISI had over 40 years of experience and worked on hundreds of security system projects for various government facilities. Thompson Electronics bid $734,000 and ISI proposed a bid of $719,000. The Commission awarded ISI the project as the lowest responsible bidder.

Thompson Electronics filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in September 1997, seeking judicial review of the Commission's competitive bidding process and an injunction against ISI. ISI filed an appearance within 30 days and moved to dismiss Thompson Electronics's motion for a preliminary injunction. The trial court denied ISI's request and enjoined it from any further activity on the project until it obtained all the necessary licenses. Thereafter, Thompson Electronics agreed to extend the time in which ISI could file its answer to December 17. On December 30, ISI filed a request to file an answer instanter, which the trial court allowed over Thompson Electronics's objection.

In January 1998, ISI obtained its agency license through James Channel as its licensee in charge. After a full conference hearing on the matter, the Department of Professional Regulations (Department) granted ISI a license but fined the company $2,500 for each job it had previously performed in Illinois without certification. ISI filed an emergency motion before the trial court to lift the injunction based on its recently procured license. The court found that subsequent to the commencement of the lawsuit, ISI lawfully obtained a private alarm contractor's license. However, it denied ISI's request to remove the injunction, finding that ISI still needed to comply with the Act by certifying its branch offices and fulfilling the employee registration card and training requirements.

After denying both parties' separate motions for summary judgment, a bench trial was held in March. At the Conclusion of the trial, the court held: (1) at the time the Commission accepted ISI's bid, it was not licensed under the Act; (2) the Commission's bid specifications did not specifically require that bidders be licensed at the time of bidding; (3) the bid specifications did not contain an implied requirement that bidders be licensed; (4) section 20 of the Public Building Commission Act (Code) (50 ILCS 20/20 (West 1996)) requires that the Commission let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder; and (5) there was no evidence to support Thompson Electronics's contention that the Commission abused its discretion in letting the bid to ISI. The trial court denied Thompson Electronics's request to be declared the lowest responsible bidder. In the final order the court incorporated its original injunction that required ISI to comply with the Act prior to commencing work. Thompson Electronics's appeal follows.

DISCUSSION

The first issue on appeal is whether the Act requires that a private alarm contractor be licensed in Illinois at ...


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