Marzorati reluctantly resigns

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117208333326695.jpg’, ‘File Photo’, ‘Nov. 15, 2006, MetroCentre Board Chairman Gary Marzorati unveiled plans for the MetroCentre renovations, but on Feb. 1 he resigned, he said, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.‘);

MetroCentre Authority Board Chairman Gary Marzorati released a statement Feb. 14 announcing his resignation.

“My resignation is not due to any concerns I have about the MetroCentre, its staff or its plans for renovation,” Marzorati wrote. “Rather, I resigned because of public perception that could get in the way of what is best for the MetroCentre as it moves into new and exciting opportunities.”

Addressing Marzorati’s resignation, “I’m not sure why it needed to be done, to be honest with you,” Rita Pirello-Epperson remarked. “I didn’t think it was necessary.”

Pirello-Epperson now serves as interim chairman on the board while Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) seeks Marzorati’s replacement. She is an investment adviser at RBC Dain Rauscher and the wife of Rockford’s Police Chief Chet Epperson.

Marzorati is employed by William Charles, Ltd., and fears conflict-of-interest issues may arise if he stayed on the board.

Park Ridge-based Ragnar Benson Construction Company, a division of William Charles, bid unsuccessfully for the Construction Manager position to oversee MetroCentre renovations.

“I understand there were concerns that he and his employer had about his continued service on the board, which I understand,” Morrissey (I) said.

The bid was awarded to Sjostrom & Sons after the company reportedly dropped its price by $300,000. With an estimated construction budget of $15 million, Sjostrom is expected to land $675,000 for the job.

Sjostrom is no stranger to working on the MetroCentre. The Rockford company replaced the facility’s exterior concrete steps in 2003.

“They came in under budget,” Pirello-Epperson said, “and they finished the job on time.”

Marzorati explained, “The perception would have been (if Ragnar Benson was or was not chosen as a finalist) that my position on the board may have had something to do with this decision.”

“On Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007, Ragnar Benson informed me they were going to resubmit,” Marzorati reported. “That same day, I submitted my resignation letter to the Mayor and Corey Pearson.”

The process began Nov. 15, 2006, when the Authority Board unanimously passed Marzorati’s motion to establish a committee to appoint a construction manager. Pirello-Epperson was chairman of the committee that then published a request for qualifications (RFQ).

By Marzorati’s own admission, Ragnar Benson had already submitted a bid prior to Feb. 1. However, it was discovered that drawings of the proposed project had only been sent to Sjostrom & Sons.

As a result, the drawings were sent out to the remaining firms, who were then asked to resubmit.

According to Pirello-Epperson, the lead architect for the project, Kansas-based DLR Group, inadvertently shared drawings with Sjostrom, unaware none of the other firms had them.

Erin Jenkins, Authority Board secretary, said the local daily’s report of nine bidders was incorrect. Jenkins supplied The Rock River Times with the following list of seven bidders:





CATH Associates


Ragnar Benson

“I just wanted to make sure that everyone had the same opportunity in front of them,” said Pirello-Epperson, who made the call to send the drawings out.

According to Dec. 21, 2006, board minutes, the construction manager will be in charge of issuing requests for proposals (RFP) to handle different aspects of the renovation.

Because Marzorati stepped down, it appeared likely Ragnar Benson had plans to bid on actual construction work related to the project.

In a statement to The Rock River Times, however, the company reported, “Ragnar Benson is not bidding any construction work at the MetroCentre.”

Marzorati was appointed to the board in 1996 by then-Rockford Mayor Charles Box and has been chairman since 2001.

Marzorati explained he does not want to put his company, the city, the county or MetroCentre staff and board “in a position to fend off the rumor mill.”

“I loved my time on the board,” Marzorati closed. “In this situation, however, my board membership would jeopardize the good intention of all. I resigned and did so reluctantly.”

“The public perception is so great,” Pirello-Epperson explained. “We get scrutinized for everything, like everybody does in this city. Gary was very instrumental in helping us with the money from Blagojevich; the money to get the outside done,” Pirello-Epperson reflected. “Gary was a risk-taker, and he takes calculated risks. I think that it was through his vision that Corey [Pearson] was able to come up with the solution as to how the MetroCentre could own a hockey team.”

Morrissey said: “I’m certainly looking forward to appointing someone to fill his spot that will be able to move the board forward. I want to make sure that the board is equipped with people representing a variety of backgrounds, a diversity of backgrounds, and some technical strengths to help ’em get through this opportunity to grow right now with the new facility.”

Mayor Morrissey expects to refer an appointee to the City Council in the coming weeks. Appointments are typically laid over for 30 days before coming to a vote.

From the Feb. 21-27, 2007, issue

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