The City Council rehired the consultant behind the Judge Doyle Square project after several alders voted against the measure, citing a lack of impartiality.
Critics said consultant George Austin favored Exact Sciences without fairly considering alternatives. Council members supporting Austin’s rehiring said his extensive experience and long tenure on the project is invaluable and that Exact Sciences’ withdrawal was not foreseeable.
Exact Sciences recently opted out of relocating its headquarters to the square following a plummet in its stock price.
Ald. David Ahrens, District 15, said he voted against the rehire because he felt Austin had presented a lack of due diligence in reviewing Exact Sciences’ record and prospects and failed to present alternatives adequately.
“We weren’t presented with a variety of choices. Before anyone had an opportunity to review the proposals, the consultant announced Exact Sciences was exceptional,” Ahrens said.
Ahrens said he felt Austin was not impartial when evaluating proposals from the very beginning. He said the overt enthusiasm he expressed toward Exact Sciences also eroded the city’s negotiating position.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said he respectfully disagrees with Ahrens’ position and Austin should not be punished for circumstances out of his control. He said Austin’s experience as the city’s Planning and Development director.
“It was ultimately the mayor who decided to set aside the other applicants,” Verveer said.
Verveer said the prospect of the entire Exact Sciences headquarters moving to the square made their application especially attractive to Austin and the mayor.
Ahrens said he hoped the city would look for a different consultant who could provide the council with better information and analysis. He said he hopes the city will take more time in finding another candidate for the project.
Ahrens said there is no other company that particularly sticks out at the moment.