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Published: Saturday, 4/8/2006

State official accused of bid-rigging steps down

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - An Ohio Department of Transportation manager accused of rigging bids for emergency repairs at department facilities in northwest Ohio has resigned.

John J. Gordon, who ODOT officials say assigned certain work at the agency's Bowling Green district headquarters and garages in eight counties to specific contractors to ease his own workload, stepped down Wednesday as the district building maintenance supervisor. His notice cited "personal reasons" for the resignation.

ODOT procedure requires that at least two competitive quotes be sought for work exceeding $1,000, and at least three bids for work exceeding $2,500.

But after receiving a complaint from a Toledo garage-door contractor, state officials discovered that when emergencies arose involving doors at ODOT facilities in Williams, Henry, Fulton, Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, Seneca, and Sandusky counties, Mr. Gordon instructed garage officials to obtain a price quote from a particular contractor. The designee would in turn notify one or two competitors to submit higher bids shortly thereafter.

"The process made it appear ODOT had followed proper bid protocol by obtaining competitive bids," a state investigation report said. A closer review by investigators, however, "revealed a suspicious pattern in that the first bid submitted was generally awarded the contract" and the higher bids often came in the same day - sometimes within hours of each other.

Under questioning, Mr. Gordon told investigators that he had used a similar arrangement for plumbing, electrical, and drywall work at the ODOT facilities, though such contracts were not issued as often as were door repairs or replacements.

Todd Audet, the department's district deputy director, said yesterday that an ongoing investigation has turned up no evidence that Mr. Gordon set up the bogus bidding arrangement for any personal gain. More than 200 contracts issued during the two years that he employed the scheme have been reviewed, Mr. Audet said.

It also appears that prices quoted by the contractors involved appear to have been reasonable for the work done, the deputy director said.

Had their prices escalated to take advantage of the bidding arrangement, Mr. Audet said, "that would have caught our attention sooner."

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.


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