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Rival: City’s bike-sharing program ‘tainted’

CHICAGO - AUGUST 6:  A bicyclist rides near protective concrete barriers front Dirksen Federal Building August 6 2004 Chicago

CHICAGO - AUGUST 6: A bicyclist rides near protective concrete barriers in front of the Dirksen Federal Building August 6, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois. A man has been charged with planning to bomb the building. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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Updated: April 19, 2012 8:32AM

A rival bidder is trying to put the brakes on Chicago’s plan to launch the nation’s largest bike sharing program — by claiming the path was greased for an Oregon company where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s transportation commissioner once worked.

Josh Squire, owner of Bike Chicago, charged that Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein “tainted the process” by failing to disclose his prior relationship with winning bidder Alta Bicycle Share and did not really recuse himself from the selection process as he claimed to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Squire, who plans to file a formal protest, further charged that:

• Klein received carbon copies of all correspondence tied to the bike sharing competition and hand picked Chicago Department of Transportation representatives on the selection committee. Rival bidders were told the five-member committee would “recommend” a contractor, but that Klein would have the final say, Squire said.

• Klein and his managing deputy Scott Kubly had conversations with Alta President Mia Birk after the city issued its request for proposals, but before bids were due, in violation of city procurement rules. It happened when Birk was seated at the commissioner’s table at a 25th anniversary celebration for the Active Transportation Alliance. City Hall insists the selection process was not discussed and that Kubly was not at the table.

• The city issued a “requests for proposal” on Sept. 25 with a quick, 30-day turnaround, attracted only three bidders, then cancelled the bids and issued a second request without releasing the first-round proposals or explaining why they were cancelled.

City Hall insisted that “major specification changes” were made in the second round that altered the number of bikes-per-station, changed the compensation model from profit-sharing to performance-based and required docking stations to accept credit cards. First round bids were not released because it could have given someone an “unfair competitive advantage,” the city said.

• During their stint together in Washington D.C., Klein and Kubly awarded a no-bid bike sharing contract to Alta by piggybacking onto an existing Arlington, Va., contract. The Emanuel administration said the move was made to save money and make the process more efficient — not to favor Alta.

• The son-in-law of Robert Wislow, CEO of U.S. Equities Realty, went to work for Alta and lobbied CDOT officials for the bike sharing contract without registering as a lobbyist. U.S. Equities is the Chicago Park District’s master concessionaire. Bike Chicago has long held the Park District’s bike rental contract at Navy Pier, North Avenue Beach and Millennium Park.

City Hall says Kubly had no idea who Bob Wislow was, “never once had a discussion” with Wislow’s son-in-law about the request for proposals and stopped talking to the son-in-law “the moment he realized” the family had business dealings with the city.

Klein acknowledged this week that Alta paid him $10,000 in 2011 to analyze the company’s response to New York City’s bike sharing request for proposals. The commissioner claimed that he recused himself from the Chicago selection process for that reason.

Squire doesn’t buy it and released the correspondence — with Klein carbon-copied — that he says proves it.

“When you’re a paid consultant by the bidder who wins, how is that a fair process? And even if he did remove himself from the process, why didn’t they tell us that from the beginning? Everybody in the industry is shocked,” Squire said.

“I’m so happy Chicago is doing bike sharing. I just wish everybody had a fair shot instead of there being a predetermined result. Why did they re-issue the bid? What was wrong with the first bid? Too many strange things happened here. It needs to be looked into.”

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation countered that Klein “had absolutely no input” in the selection of Alta and was not obliged to “announce” his past relationship with the company to bike sharing bidders.

“The bike share procurement process was fair and competitive,” the spokesman said, calling Alta “by far the best respondent … to run a bike share program of Chicago’s size and scope.”

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