Monday, June 05, 2006

In Opening Statements, Biskupic and Hurley Debate Thompson Motives

In his opening statement Biskupic said Thompson's responsibility was to act as the "separation of the political influence from the awarding of public dollars," and said Thompson had a duty to be "fair and impartial" in that capacity.

The government asserted that Thompson "believed Adelman was the political choice" and that her alleged criminal manipulation of the bidding process began when she realized Adelman wouldn't win any of the contracts it bid for. Biskupic said Thompson's actions took Adelman from a "runner-up to a winner."

Biskupic mentioned a witness who recalled Thompson saying that "My bosses want Adelman. They don't want to hear that anybody but Adelman wins that contract," during a discussion of the bid scores after Adelman placed second. Biskupic mentioned another witness who recalled that Thompson said Omega "wouldn't fly politically."

Biskupic said that once the process moved to the best and final offer phase the "rules were ignored ... and the selection committee was left in the dark."Biskupic said that after the best and final offer submissions, Adelman was notified it won the travel contract on March 18 and that the committee wasn't notified until March 30, after the 10-day window to object to the award passed.

In closing, Biskupic said Thompson was supposed to defend the integrity of the process, but that instead, "she subverted the process."

In his opening remarks, Hurley portrayed Thompson as a simple, hard-working civil servant who had "a lot on her plate" during the contract award process. Hurley said Thompson was "not the least bit political."

Hurley pointed to a disconnect between what University of Wisconsin System representatives on the RFP committee understood about the bidding process and what Thompson understood.

Hurley portrayed Thompson as an expert in the procurement process and that she "knew what the book said about procurement and not everybody else did."

Hurley said that after oral presentations, the UW System reps judged based on presentation style instead of substance. "Style was to be given no weight whatsoever," Hurley said.

When Thompson asked committee members to reevaluate their scores, Hurley said many of the committee members became upset. Hurley said the UW System reps didn't understand that the purpose of the evaluation meeting was to discuss scores.

Hurley noted that Thompson told committee members that she changed her score on a travel bid for UW Athletics after discussing how that vendor would better fulfill that department's needs with the evaluator for that department. Hurley said this move was "by the book."

When the process was moved to the "best and final offer phase," Hurley said UW members of the evaluation committee scoffed. Hurley said that 60 to 70 percent of all DOA bids move to this phase, while it is not as common in the UW bidding process.

Hurley said Thompson's actions in no way resulted in "fraud" or "theft" and that the contract was awarded to a "qualified company at the lowest price."

Hurley suggested that job security could not be a motive for her actions because her job was already secure and that she could only be fired for "just cause," which would not include giving a contract to a firm her superiors did not favor.

-- By David A. Wise

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