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October 13, 2012

Ethics Board: Essex Co. clerk, deputy violated ethics rules

County officials to pay fines for trying to sway contract

ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County Clerk Joseph Provoncha and one of his deputies have been reprimanded by the County Ethics Board and fined a total of $4,000 for trying to improperly influence the awarding of a contract.

In a decision released at a meeting Friday morning, the Ethics Board said Provoncha and Deputy Clerk Janet Cross admitted they violated county ethics policy in dealing with a vendor for document-scanning software and equipment for the County Clerk’s Office.

Both Provoncha and Cross denied doing so when contacted after the session, saying that although they agreed to and signed the findings of the Ethics Board, they believe they did nothing intentionally wrong.

The decision also requires Provoncha to resign from two of his auxiliary positions, deputy county manager and county mailroom supervisor. Both are unpaid posts.

STEERED CONTRACT

The case went to the Ethics Board in early October 2011, after emails released to the media under the State Freedom of Information Law showed Cross had been communicating with the vendor, Info Quick Solutions of Liverpool, during the bid process. Provoncha was also accused of successfully steering the contract to Info Quick even though the firm was not the low or recommended bidder.

Provoncha was fined $3,500, and Cross $500 as part of the decision, County Ethics Board Chairman Michael Orticelle said. Members James Herrmann, Frank Kearns and Phyllis Klein were also present, with member Alexander Shmulsky absent.

As part of the settlement agreement, Provoncha admitted “he improperly allowed IQS to prepare an evaluation of all other RFP (request for proposals submissions) … and improperly used the evaluation and submitted the evaluation to other county officials in making the determination to award the contract to IQS.”

The contract was for $76,800 a year for five years to provide the software and scanning equipment in the Clerk’s Office. Info Quick was the fourth-lowest bidder.

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