Advertising for sealed bids or requests for proposals should be common sense, standard procedure in all levels of government. There's no excuse, then, for Niles Mayor Ralph Infante to have bypassed that process when selecting a concessionaire for the community fitness center that bears his name.
Infante, long part of a Niles political regime known for safeguarding taxpayer dollars, belied that reputation when he awarded a no-bid contract to city employee Lou Hillier. Hillier operates the cafe at the Mayor Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center, commonly referred to as The Well.
City Council members complained that under Hillier, the cafe is open much less and its revenue to the city has dropped sharply.
''We were concerned because the Wellness Center was making significantly more money from concession in previous years than this year,'' Councilman Steven Papalas said.
''As a city, we are losing money,'' Councilman Edward Stredney said. ''Our members are looking at ways of bringing more income into the city.''
In light of the revenue drop Infante said he welcomes efforts to find a vendor able to generate more money. That begins with a request for proposals or a sealed bid procedure with detailed specifications.
Law exempts professional services like this from bid requirements. Local governments, though, should rarely exercise that option.