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Castleberry Fairs

Commissioners award IT and landscaping contracts in drama-filled meeting


April 12, 2012
OSSIPEE — Carroll County Government finally has a new IT (Information Technology) contract approved by county commissioners April 4. That approval wasn't easy to come by though, as accusations about the bidding process being slanted towards one vendor, name calling, sarcasm towards employees, and yelling were once again the norm at the commissioner's meeting.

The IT contract for the county complex – including the jail, nursing home, and county business offices – expired March 31. The sheriff's department has been operating it's computers and emergency dispatching equipment without an IT contract but rather on a month-to-month and as needed basis for support services through the county's contractor, Cybertron, since the departure of that department's computer guru last fall.

The commissioners appointed an IT committee made up of several department heads with Cybertron's owner Jon Rich, the county's IT contractor, serving as technical advice to the committee. The committee was charged with drafting the IT request for proposals, with much of that work being done by the county's human resources director. In hopes of attracting many bidders, the commissioners approved advertising the request for proposals in newspapers around the state and as far away as Portland, Maine, as well as on the county Web site. In the end, three companies called for more information but only one submitted a bid – Cybertron.

Commissioner Asha Kenney (R-Wakefield) pushed for the process to go out to re-bid to make things more competitive. "What is wrong with a private citizen going out to get bids?" she asked. Carroll County Sheriff Department Lt. Michael Santuccio, a member of the IT committee, reminded the commissioners about a recent court case out of Conway where a judge ordered that e-mailed complaints about a school board member who was reportedly being a bad sport at youth soccer games should be released to the public though the defendant had claimed that he was not acting in his capacity as school board member but rather as a parent. "You can't act as a citizen if you are a sitting commissioner. You are always a commissioner. You can't step outside the box. And say 'I'm a citizen doing this'" said Santuccio. 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. More bids did come in and they were handed off to the IT committee to review and make a recommendation on which company should get the three-year contract.

Though Kenney said she was soliciting more bids in the spirit of making the bid process more competitive, those sitting in the audience had a different perception, as over the course of two meetings Kenney repeatedly referred to Rich as Mr. Cybertron and accused employees of just wanting Cybertron to get the job because they are friends with Rich. To back up that claim, she said she sees Rich talking to employees in the hall and when she walks by they stop talking.

Santuccio, who represented his department in the IT committee, informed the commissioners the committee voted 8-0 to recommend Cybertron over the other bidders – to which Kenney quipped, "So does everybody on the IT Committee has a background and expertise in IT?"

Human Resources Director Robin Reade, steadily answered that the department heads have enough experience with the equipment in their department and what their needs are to know what support is needed from an IT contractor.

Kenney said the bidders should have been given the opportunity to tour the complex and give a presentation to the commissioners prior to officially submitting their bids. By all accounts, the county appears to lack a written bid policy for commissioners to follow, Commissioner David Sorensen has several times answered that the commissioners do not have a separate policy but rather just follow state law.

Commissioner Dorothy Solomon offered that the IT contractors could come in and give a presentation to the board prior to the commissioners deciding on which company to award the contract to, but would not be given the opportunity to edit their bids. Kenney brushed this idea off as too little too late. "What's the point?" she asked.

On that note Solomon voted in favor of awarding the contract to Cybertron, as did Sorensen. Kenney, adamant, and yelling towards the end of her statement said, "I oppose. I oppose because the fox is in the hen house. I think the whole bidding process went wrong. We have Mr Cybertron on the IT Committee. No other company could come in and make assessment. How are they going to write appropriate bid. The RFP was written by Cybertron for Cybertron. And then put in a bid for the contract. It is totally despicable." she said.

As the meeting wore on, it became more evident that adopting a bidding policy, including how bids are solicited, might not be a bad idea. "A month ago I was criticized for calling local companies (on another matter) to put bids in and now here we are. Commissioner Kenney was allowed or decided to call different companies locally and no one has criticized her for doing that," said Sorensen. To which Kenney fired back, "I don't know what you're talking about. You're playing games. You told me that I should take it upon and make phone calls and put it in the paper. You need to stop playing these little games."

Landscaping

The commissioners advertised for landscapers to submit bids for planting trees and other site enhancements at the new nursing home. Eight to 10 contractors submitted bids, which Sorensen and Kenney reviewed and whittled down to four. The landscaping committee reviewed the bids, met with each contractor in a filmed public session, met privately to deliberate, and then voted unanimously to recommend Salmon Falls of Berwick, Maine to do the job. And the commissioners wholeheartedly agreed, awarding the $14,400 contract at the same meeting at which the IT contract debacle occurred.

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