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Controversy continues over county IT contract bids

CHAIRMAN DAVE SORENSEN (center) attempts to explain to Commissioner Asha Kenney (right) the IT contract bid process during the March 21 Carroll County Commissioners meeting in this frame from the video at www.governmentoversite.com. (Courtesy photo) (click for larger version)
March 29, 2012
OSSIPEE — "I don't know why anyone would want to work for this county given the amount of disrespect that you always seem to give to people who give you a good job," said former Carroll County Commissioner Chip Albee at the March 21 county commissioner's meeting.

Albee's comments came after one commissioner repeatedly dodged a request for information and another commissioner threatened to press the panic button to call for a sheriff's deputy in response to a member of the audience's angry tirade.

At simple issue is that the information technology (IT) contract currently with Cybertron for the county complex that includes the jail, nursing home, county attorney's office, and business office computers and networks is set to expire at the end of March. A request for proposals was advertised seeking bidders who would like to be hired to oversee all technology upgrades, installations and maintenance for the Carroll County complex in Ossipee. Also to be included in the new contract is the sheriff's department and dispatch center. The IT work in the sheriff's department and dispatch center was previously handled by the sheriff's second-in-command David Meyers. When Meyers retired late last year, an agreement for IT work was entered into with Cybertron on a month-to-month basis with the intent that when the full county contract was set for renewal, those two departments would be included in the new contract.

The IT request for proposals was advertised in newspapers as far as Portland, Maine and also on the county Web site. When it was announced at the March 14 commissioner's meeting that only Cybertron had submitted a bid, Commissioner Asha Kenney said she would reach out to other towns and chambers of commerce to find out what companies they use and personally pursue encouraging those IT companies to submit a bid. The other two commissioners, with trepidation, agreed to not open Cybertron's bid and instead hold it and allow Kenney to chase after more bids, with a deadline of March 21.

As a result of either Kenney's work or the media attention, two more bids were submitted, bringing the total to three bids. Jon Rich, owner of Cybertron was present at the March 21 meeting and asked Kenney at least twice who she had contacted about submitting bids. She refused to answer but did manage to refer several times during the meeting to Mr. Rich as Mr. Cybertron. Commissioner David Sorensen said who she contacted it is a matter of public record and asked her to answer the question, but she refused to, with the reasoning that Rich had no right to know because he served on the IT Committee that wrote the RFP and because he had submitted a bid. As soon as Rich had asked the question, boisterous audience member Steve Brown shouted that the commissioner's shouldn't give out that information, calling it a slippery slope. As he went on to accuse the commissioners of rigging the bids and accused Commissioner Dorothy Solomon of knowing more of what goes on behind the scenes than she says she does, getting louder with each accusation, Solomon said she was going to press the panic button. "You know what you can do with your button," shouted Brown.

Kenney said in her work seeking out other bidders, company representatives told her that they called the human resources office to get information to prepare their proposals, they got no response.

"If you were paying attention at the commissioner's meeting you would have known that there was one bid that was sent to us and two other inquiries from two other companies. Those companies decided not to put in a bid," said Sorensen.

The RFP was put together by the IT Committee over several meetings and is a three-page document. When asked if the IT Committee would be reviewing the bids submitted prior to the commissioners making a decision, Commissioner Dorothy Solomon said she would like to have all the input she can get before making a decision. Kenney said, "I don't think I wanna go that route," and added that the county attorney should be the one reviewing it instead.

Kenney also added a hint of paranoia to the mix when she said, "I'd like to know the names of the people on the IT Committee. I know certain employees are very close to Mr. Cybertron because every time I'm walking I see they stop talking."

The lengthy squabble over the IT Committee closed with Brown asking Albee, "Do you and Mr. Rich have any connections or have you had any connections in the past?" to which Albee called Mr. Brown's intimation pathetic and Rich politely told commissioners he finds the whole process 'highly irregular."

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