To: Linda Renee’ Baker, Secretary Department of Human Services
From: John Gordon, Chairman
Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors
Subject: Pending issues
Please allow me the opportunity to discuss with you several pending issues within the Business Enterprise Program For The Blind (B.E.P.B.), which are quite disturbing to my committee and myself.
Through State Law 2420 blind vendors in Illinois have traditionally been given preferential treatment when creating job opportunities for blind persons on state property. Furthermore, with the creation of the super agency known as Department of Human Services (D.H.S.) a contract for providing these services within our own agency was not needed. All that has been needed is an inner agency agreement or a memorandum of understanding between the BEPB and other agencies under the DHS umbrella. I have discussed these issues with Associate Director Charlie Martin and informed him that some mental health facilities were not allowing us to create job opportunities because they want these vending contracts to be put out for competitive bid with a commission on sales going back to the agency. I think it would take no more than a directive from you to assist us in continuing to procure these job opportunities for blind persons while at the same time giving employment opportunities to other people with disabilities. I am currently representing a blind vendor who is grieving the lack of responsibility the agency has demonstrated in procuring such a vending contract. This time consuming process is very nonproductive.
Federal Vending Revenue is money that is generated through vending machines on federal properties where we do not have a blind vendor placed in a job opportunity. Commissions that are paid by private vending contractors to the federal property owner are turned over to the BEPB. These monies are to be voted on annually by the blind vendors and by law can only be spent on specific items stated in the Randolph Sheppard Act. The BEPB has a responsibility for the collection of these monies and have failed miserably due to the lack of staff needed to complete such a mission. The ICBV made the offer to take over this responsibility and could subcontract for these services and all would be solved. DHS legal staff Mr. Bill Wallin had written our Assistant Bureau Chief Mr. Paul Drake a letter questioning the authority of the committee to take on this responsibility. I then employed an attorney (Mr. Robert Humphreys) who was the Commissioner of Rehab Services Administration and one of the co-authors of the 1974 amendments to the Randolph Sheppard Act. He successfully answered all of Mr. Wallin’s concerns and proved how little Mr. Wallin knew about the Randolph Sheppard Act. Once again the ICBV is forced into filing a grievance along with what I am very sure to be a lengthy and costly federal arbitration for all parties.
Approximately eighteen months ago my committee and I had a meeting with you and DHS legal council Mr. Tom McMahon. We were promised better legal support in the area of enforcement to the Randolph Sheppard Act and what we received is Mr. Bill Wallin who has shown only contempt for blind business people in Illinois and further contempt to the BEPB, the agency he claims to represent. I do sincerely feel the contempt shown by Mr. Wallin is only a barometer of the feelings that our Bureau Chief Bettye Odem-Davis has for us. She has on more than one occasion threatened to cut our budget further and several months ago attempted to move certain responsibilities away from the BEPB and place them in the hands of Mr. Willie Buchanan, even after it was brought to her attention that when he previously had these responsibilities, he failed miserably.
Working with the BEPB the last several years we have continuously been operating short handed because staff positions could not be filled according to Mr. Carl Suter. We have been forced to hire people contractually using monies that normally are used for equipment to further enhance the lives of blind business people. After a freedom of information request listing all people who are being paid contractually out of the BEPB budget, I found the name of Mr. Gholar who appears to be a ghost payroller. Upon apprising our Bureau Chief of this, she was quite defensive and informed us that he was originally hired to be guardian over our warehouse in Chicago, even though our warehouse moved to Springfield two years ago. When the request for this move was made, the BEPB demonstrated the cost savings that included the removal of such a guardian.
Now let me demonstrate to you once more the lack of responsibility shown by our Bureau Chief. I recently was made aware that a sexual assault had taken place at ICRE Wood by Mr. Everett Davis against a blind pupil. I spoke with Mr. Mike Nooner and told him this individual should be put on administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation. Mr. Davis was not only allowed to remain at the school, but was allowed to go around the school and cover his tracks. The victim (Miss Carolyn Randolph) was told that he was being disciplined so I could only assume guilt. I later found out this was his 3rd alleged sexual assault against a blind person. I am requesting that you consider removing Bureau Chief Bettye Odem-Davis from this position and looking into intrusting someone else with such a great responsibility.
I hope you understand that I have the greatest amount of respect for you and what you are trying to accomplish in DHS. In no way do I want to cause any embarrassment however, I am a person; I’m sure like you, who feels I need to do the best for the people I represent. I would be more than happy to discuss these issues at any time.
John Gordon, Chairman ICBV
cc: Charlie Martin, Associate Director
Paul Drake, Assistant Bureau Chief
Ray Campbell, BSPC
Ray Campbell, ICB President
Steve Benson, NFBI President
Matt Cunningham, Director of Personnel and Training
Terry Camardelle, RSVA President
Donnie Anderson, RSVAI President
Robert Humphreys, Legal Council