Press-Republican

November 20, 2012

Essex County debates IQS contract

BY LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County must decide whether to void a contract that the County Ethics Board ruled was improperly awarded.

County Attorney Daniel Manning III said Monday he’s still reviewing whether the $76,800-a-year contract with Info Quick Solutions of Liverpool should be canceled because the County Clerk’s Office improperly influenced the bid process to favor it.

The firm provides document-scanning equipment and software for the Clerk’s Office, which records real-estate transactions and other legal documents.

Manning said the County Ethics Law says improperly awarded contracts may be canceled and rebid.

“I have to see the pros and cons of voiding this contract,” he said, before he makes a recommendation to the County Board of Supervisors.

The scanning system may now be integrated into the operation of the Clerk’s Office and not easily changed, he explained.

And Info Quick Solutions was still determined by officials to be the best fit for the county, Manning said, despite the bid problems.

FINED FOR MISCONDUCT

After investigating a complaint, the Ethics Board ruled in October that County Deputy Clerk Janet Cross had been communicating with Info Quick Solutions during the bid process and sharing information on other bidders before the contract was awarded. County Clerk Joseph Provoncha was also accused of successfully steering the contract to Info Quick even though the company was not the low or recommended bidder.

Provoncha said he believes the county, by continuing with Info Quick, would save about $100,000 over the five-year length of the contract compared to other bidders.

Both he and Cross denied they intended to do anything wrong but signed agreements agreeing with the findings.

Provoncha was fined $3,500, and Cross, $500, as part of the decision, County Ethics Board Chairman Michael Orticelle said.

Manning said he and County Manager Daniel Palmer and a representative of the Clerk’s Office will make a determination on the status of the contract.

“You can’t just snap your fingers and do this,” Manning said. “You have to have another system in place.”

“Every piece of equipment they’re using is owned by IQS, all the software is owned by IQS,” Palmer said. “I just want it to be an orderly progression” if it’s voided.

ETHICS LAW

He said if he told Info Quick Solutions the contract was canceled, the firm would quickly come and remove all its equipment and software from the County Clerk’s Office.

“It would shut them (the office) down,” Palmer said.

Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said he understands they may not be able to change the system in use, but an Ethics Law decision should still be rendered.

“I want to obey the rules and regulations we put in place,” Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) agreed.

Manning said he is working on a decision and will release it when it’s ready.

“You’re not just going to do away with the system and get somebody else in there overnight.”

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com