Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City Clerk Anna Valencia have already been accused of “suborning voter fraud” by allowing Chicago’s CityKey municipal identification card to be used to register to vote.
Now, the 2019 running mates have another problem on their hands: a rival bidder’s politically explosive claim that printing technology used to create the new ID compromises personal information the city has promised to keep confidential to shield illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation.
Last year, the city clerk’s office chose Omicron Technologies to handle the software and printing on machines capable of putting names and addresses on the ID cards, without keeping records that threaten to expose the identities of undocumented immigrants.
The five-year contract called for Omicron to be paid $365,000 for the first year of work and $134,400 in each of the remaining four years.
Losing bidder Valid USA, Inc. is claiming — with pictures to support its argument — that a photographic image of the face is “considered personal identifiable information” under federal law and that image is precisely what is retained in the printing process used by Omicron Technologies.
Valid further accused Omicron of making “material misrepresentations to the city” about its minority and women’s business partners and alleged that the city’s changing checklist allowed Omicron’s “non-conforming bid to be qualified.”
“Omicron makes the claim that, in the proposed method of printing cards, no personal or private information printed on the cards is retained or recoverable. All personal private information is printed in black resin. Moreover, Omicron stated the printer and the ribbon have no private personal information retained,” Valid Vice President Michael Fox wrote in a recent letter to the city.
“However, you can see in the picture provided by Omicron that there is private personal information retained on the ribbon. It is the photograph of the applicant sitting clearly in each of the panels.”
Kate Lefurgy, a spokesperson for the city clerk’s office, countered, “Any claim that the printing system that we use would compromise any person’s information is completely baseless and irresponsible as we do not want to create fear among those who need this card the most. We have worked, and will continue to work, with community organizations and other data privacy groups to ensure that this card is secure. We stand by Omicron’s ability to provide Chicago residents with a safe and secure CityKey.”
In a registered letter dated Feb. 23, Chief Procurement Officer Jamie Rhee denied Valid’s “post-award bid protest” along with the company’s request to disqualify Omicron re-evaluate the city’s request for proposals and issue a stop-work order based on the security controversy and alleged bidding irregularities.
“The Office of the City Clerk has reviewed Omicron’s proposed printing solution and has confirmed that the . . . `resin scramble’ feature eliminates the personal data on used ribbon panels and no recoverable images are retained on the printer image,” Rhee wrote.
“Omicron’s solution does not retain physical or digital information and, therefore, complies with the requirements of the RFP.”
Rhee further concluded that since it was an RFP, the city is not required to award the contract to the lowest bidder; Procurement Services “exercised its discretion in accepting Omicron’s revised minority set-aside plan; and that “differences between the RFP requirement checklist and the contract requirement checklist are minor and based on standard contract negotiation procedure.”
Fox responded with a request for reconsideration, citing new information provided by Omicron and the city since the original protest was filed.
Preventing sensitive information from being used against undocumented immigrants has been a primary concern from the outset.
More than a year ago, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) warned Valencia that there would be a “national spotlight on what Chicago does, especially as it relates to how we collect the information, what we do with it and how we protect our most vulnerable neighbors.
The clerk assured Pawar and his colleagues that fears the personal information required to qualify for a municipal ID may somehow find itself in the hands of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were unfounded.
“We’re working with the administration to find a … way to make sure that our data can be secure. … New York struggled with that. San Francisco had a little more success. We’re gonna do everything we can possible to make sure that we can have secure data,” she said then.
Earlier this week, Republican gubernatorial challenger Jeanne Ives joined forces with the City Council’s lone Republican in opposition to allowing Chicago’s “CityKey” municipal identification card to be used to register to vote and vote.
“Accepting the CityKey as a legitimate form of identification for voter registration is literally suborning voter fraud,” Ives said.