OSWEGO, NY – The county’s contract with a Syracuse-area software company that handles computer and software work for the county clerk’s office came under fire Wednesday afternoon.
The county legislature’s Community and Consumer Affairs committee decided to seek new proposals from computer and software companies. The action comes on the heels of an ethics violation involving the county’s current vendor.
After talking with the county attorney and purchasing director, “it is our recrimination that the RFP (request for proposals) be re-issued and we start over,” said Phil Church, county administrator.
Last month, the legislature was to consider awarding a new deal to Info Quick Solutions.
However, County Clerk George Williams came under investigation by the Oswego County Ethics Board to determine if he also worked for IQS.
They found him innocent but discovered Georgiana Mansfield, the county’s first deputy clerk, failed to properly disclose that she worked part-time for IQS during parts of 2008, 2009 and 2010.
That prompted the legislature to send the matter back to the committee level.
The proposals should be reissued “so there is no question in the public’s mind of any impropriety,” Church explained.
Legislator Doug Malone sought to exclude IQS from the next round of bidding. However, County Attorney Dick Mitchell pointed out the county could face a legal challenge if they did that.
The committee needs to look at the bids first, according to Malone.
“I’d like to see the bids from the people that turned it down or weren’t able to bid on this (the last time). I’d like to see them so we have something to go by,” he said. “To this day I haven’t gotten any contracts, haven’t seen any bids, haven’t seen nothing. To begin with, I think this is illegal with IQS; they ought to be excluded from the bidding process.”
According to Malone, with IQS, “it was made available for them to get in here without our looking over and approval.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I was lied to at this committee, at the last committee meeting, as far as people working for IQS back and forth, trying to go into executive session,” he said. “There was a lot of shenanigans going on. I don’t trust them.”
By honoring the current contract, is an ethics violation by the county, Legislator Amy Tressider said.
Some of the legislators feared that there might be an interruption in services of the County Clerk’s Office while a new firm is being sought.
Legislator Mike Kunzwiler, the minority leader, said it’s “very unrealistic” to think it could shut down the clerk’s office.
“If we did in fact get to that point, then shame on us as a legislature,” he said. “This department ran effectively without IQS before . . . the first contract was to enhance the office. If we’ve outsourced enough or given enough away where we’re taking a county entity and making it private, I think we have to look at that also.”
He wants to get back to the practice of showing committees what is being bid on and how the bidding process works.
“I don’t think that it is outlandish to get back to the practice of seeing what we are bidding on or seeing how the bidding process works and tightening that up. I would like to see the specifications come back to this committee prior to voting on the RFP going out so there can be input by this legislature and this committee system to scrutinize how these bids are going out,” he said.
He added, “What is the public’s faith in this body if we’re gong to be giving bids to companies that are going to hire county employees, be it part-time, full-time or whatever.”
He had a copy of the financial disclosure for the Republican Committee of Oswego County. For multiple years there were $500 donations given every quarter to the committee (from IQS), he said.
“I have a question. Do you have the one for the Democrat committee?” asked Legislature Chair Barry Leemann.
“I can guarantee you 110 percent IQS has not given a dime to the Democrat committee,” Kunzwiler said as accusations flew back and forth across the table about making it a political issue.
“We do not want to make this political. That was brought up by your party,” Leemann said. “Keep parties out of this. We’re here to serve the public, do it the best way that we can, do it the cheapest way that we can and with the least inconvenience to the public that we can. And that’s what we need to do.”
The county administrator, attorney and purchasing agent as well as himself are going to review the new proposal, Leemann said.
“You’re all welcome to review the proposal as far as I am concerned,” he added. “We don’t want to get politics involved in this whole thing, anywhere.”
“Mr. Chairman, that’s not politics, it’s a fact in the bidding process,” Kunzwiler said. “We can set the rules for either party. I will gladly support any motion that comes before this legislature to bar any, any and all people from donating to a political party in this county, Democrat or Republican at the county level, if they’re going to bid at the county level. I’ll set that ethical standard. I’d be more than happy to do that.”
When the vote was taken whether to re-issue the RFP, only Malone voted against it.