By Bill Lueders
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
A key legislator is asking state and University of Wisconsin-Madison officials to review the process through which a subcontractor was selected to build a new scoreboard and sound system at Camp Randall Stadium, to see if the jobs should be rebid.
Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, chairman of the state Assembly’s Committee on Colleges and Universities, “is very concerned with the appearance of how this bidding process worked out,” said Mike Mikalsen, Nass’ aide and spokesman.
Mikalsen said the office has conveyed its concerns to the state Department of Administration (DOA) and UW-Madison: “We’ve asked them to review this and see if there’s any need to rebid the contract.”
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported Sunday that the bids for a new scoreboard and sound system were received by J.P. Cullen & Sons, a contractor hired by the state to manage a $76.8 million Camp Randall renovation, now under way.
Daktronics of South Dakota was awarded the scoreboard and sound system jobs for a combined $3.85 million. A consultant had recommended that another bidder get the scoreboard job, saying its product was not only cheaper but of better quality. J.P. Cullen is listed as an installation subcontractor on the Daktronics scoreboard bid, a job for which it stands to make more than a half-million dollars.
“It’s very clear that J.P. Cullen was involved in selecting a contract they were going to benefit from,” Mikalsen said. While there is no evidence the selection was illegal or violated state contracting rules, the office has concerns “that a lesser-quality product was chosen.”
J.P. Cullen project executive Jeremy Shecterle defended the process.
“We can say with confidence that any objective review of the selection process will clearly show that it was fair, open and transparent,” Shecterle wrote in an email late Tuesday. “The selection was based on the best technology, the best value and the highest quality product for the intended use by UW-Athletics for the next decade.”
Mikalsen said Nass would like the DOA “to put pressure on the Athletics Department to revisit this issue.” UW-Madison Athletics Department officials were involved in the bid-selection process, records show.
Justin Doherty, the department’s associate athletic director, said in an email Tuesday: “We are very confident that the vendor that has been selected was done so within university and state guidelines.” He cited Daktronics’ “proven track record in the collegiate athletics scoreboard/sound system industry” as giving the project team “the comfort level it desired within our established budget.”
DOA officials, including spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis, did not respond to requests for comment made over a two-day period. But Mikalsen said he’s spoken to Summer Shannon-Bradley, head of the DOA’s Division of State Facilities, requesting additional information.
“I think both the UW-Madison and DOA are reviewing what happened in this case,” Mikalsen said.
The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
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