Wednesday, March 22, 2017

City Wants Failed Vendor to Fund New System

The Standard Times reported:

The City of San Angelo filed a lawsuit against Utah-based Spillman Technologies, Inc. — a provider of public safety software that bills itself as "the home of reliable innovation" — seeking to recover more than $3.5 million late Wednesday, March 22.
This strategy should be familiar to West Texas football fans who believe the best defense is a good offense.  The City of San Angelo has not shared with the public an investigation as to how their 2014 vendor selection process failed.  Instead the lawsuit puts 100% of the blame on Spillman:

"Spillman fraudulently misrepresented the functionality of its records management and computer-aided dispatch software and its qualifications to implement the system."

Citizens and City Council heard Tuesday how employees knew during the installation process that Spillman software would not work.  The system required too many clicks to dispatch an officer or complete workflow tasks.  Could these not have been seen during a site visit in the selection process?

City documents described the 2014 process:

The replacement of the current system consisted of a comprehensive evaluation of the needs and functionality assessment, development of a Request for Proposals, extensive evaluation and selection process and final vendor selection.
The city borrowed $1.5 million for the system.  To date the city has not shared the actual amount spent to implement and support the system since Spillman was selected.  The city's CAFR pegged the amount spent at roughly $1 million as of the end of the last fiscal year (8-31-16).

Citizens also heard of decades of under investment by City Council by postponing needed software updates.  By asking Spillman for $3.5 million the city's lawsuit externalizes all responsibility for Council's long term under investment in this system.

Contrast this decision with City Council's free pass to Republic Services on over $6 million in unauthorized billings to commercial customers over a decade.  At no time did the city engage attorneys in a lawsuit on behalf of the city or its citizens.

The newspaper article listed several significant performance failures with the system.  If there is liability for the incidents listed in the lawsuit, both the City of San Angelo and Spillman bear responsibility. The mix might be 98% Spillman, 2% City, but the city is not Scott Free as it chose Spillman.  To say that amounts to $2.3 million due the city feels like a stretch.

City Council determined Tuesday that action needed to be taken.  Public testimony encouraged self reflection and acceptance of responsibility.  That's good advice as this is not the first vendor being sued by the city.   Spillman now joins the 2013 Sealcoat vendor, Templeton Construction and Alsay, Inc..  Repayment of funds should be a remedy in a fair contract with performance requirements and penalties for failure.

Sometimes the cheap way is the more expensive route.  That's the route City Council, City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and Police Chief Tim Vasquez took in late 2014.  In trying to save $800,000 staff apparently wasted $1.5 million.  Council approved spending $2.3 million it could have spent two years ago for a quality product.
The $3.5 million lawsuit feels like a dodge combined with a legal roll of the dice to pay for what should have been funded long ago. 

Update 3-23-17:   Concho Valley Homepage published a story with information from the city's press release.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Public Safety Communications: System Redo is Expensive

City Council will consider spending $2.5 million to replace a public safety system they approved replacing at $1.5 million in December 2014.

The last two Capital Improvement Plans described the project:

The San Anglo Police Department’s public safety software suite, including computer aided dispatching (CAD), records managements system (RMS) and mobile computing has reached its end of life. The current software suite will no longer be supported for maintenance, upgrades and fixes and as such is no longer compliant with criminal justice information systems (CJIS) rules and regulation.

The replacement of the current system consisted of a comprehensive evaluation of the needs and functionality assessment, development of a Request for Proposals, extensive evaluation and selection process and final vendor selection. Project should consist of: Computer Aided Dispatching Software (CAD), Records Management System (RMS), Mobile Computing Software, and various Hardware Upgrades.

The expected completion date for the CAD/RMS system is April 29, 2016. Some systems and hardware will shortly follow the final implementation of the Spillman software. Final completion of this project should occur by September 2016. Annual maintenance is already being paid under the current system. There are no significant changes in the costs associated with this upgrade. annual maintenance and support have traditionally been included in the regular operating budget of the PSC center.

Funding Source:  2015 Certificate of Obligation of  $1,500,000
Oddly, at the time Council approved the Spillman Technonogies project they considered a document that compared Spillman vs. the cost to upgrade with Intergraph Public Safety.

The city chose Spillman and stuck to their guns, defending the choice in last spring's Strategic Planning Session, despite running into problems that required more budget dollars.  Last year Police Chief Tim Vasquez stressed to Council:

"If you give Jeff a chance he'll finish this and show you the solution and cost that's affiliated with that.  Again, our $1.5 million is way under budget....  We are working very well with this company....  If you let Jeff finish...."
Spillman is finished.  The city's staunch defense is over.  In Tuesday's council meeting staff will return to the Intergraph upgrade option.

Combined the city will have borrowed $4 million for one project, the $1.5 million that did not work and the planned $2.5 million replacement of the replacement.  This issue arose as a crisis in a Strategic Planning Session at Old Fort Concho.  It's now a financial disaster for a city squeezing every penny to maintain public services and meet its contractual obligations to police officers.

Update 3-20-17:  Nearly two days after this report the Standard Times ran a story on this debacle.   City Manager Daniel Valenzuela tried to dance away from this but the buck stops at his desk.

Update 3-22-17:  San Angelo Live reported on this debacle as well.  One might expect the too many steps for workflow or dispatching an officer could have been determined during a site visit in the selection process.  The City issued its press release absolving the City Manager and purchasing department of any responsibility.  SAPD got sold a bill of goods.  One has to wonder why the city's vendors fail and the city ends up suing them.  The list includes:  2013 Sealcoating Program Contract,  Templeton Construction, Inc.,  Alsay, Inc. and now the Spillman Contract. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Second Dangerous Dog Trapped

Citizens trapped a second dog that had been terrorizing small animals along Old Christoval Road and an area around Glenmore Park.

It took some convincing, but the San Angelo Police officer finally dispatched animal control. Animal Control Officer Crystal showed up and did an amazing job handling this dog who was thrashing, biting, and very upset. 

When people fail dogs others have to manage the mess.  Thank heaven for citizens willing to step up and solve the problem.  The recent support of Animal Control is also much appreciated.  The problem is not completely solved but good people are working it.  Godspeed.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dogs Continue Small Pet Hunting Behavior

Pets around Glenmore Park and Old Christoval Road remain at risk for injury or death from dog packs that continue to roam the area.  Neighbors banded together two weeks ago when numerous pets were killed.  An area veterinarian is helping the group determine the cause of death for some of the animals.

Other citizens have monitored the area with the intent of trapping the dogs who continue to cruise the neighborhood.

They've determined there are at least five dogs working in one or more packs.   Dogs in the night camera pictures are inside a fenced area.

These dogs are not interested in food left out to satisfy hunger.  They walk past bowls of dog food intent on going to areas where they've killed before.  This behavior will continue until these dogs are trapped.

I personally saw these dogs running through Glenmore Park, an area that needs to be safe for small children.  The sooner they are caught the better.

Update 3-14-17 at 8:00 am:  A citizen trapped one dog early this morning and called the non-emergency police to access Animal Control.  The officer would not come get the dog at 4:00 am and instructed the caller to bring in the dangerous animal at 10:00 am. As the citizen only had access to one dog sized trap this response, more like a non-response, prevented the potential trapping of more rogue pet killing dogs. 

Update 3-14-17 at 10:15 pm:  Animal Control picked up the trapped dog this morning at a private residence on Old Christoval Road.  Citizens said the Animal Control Officer was very professional in their approach and handling of the situation.   The ACO reiterated the procedure is to call the Police Department non-emergency number after hours and an ACO will come out and pick up the trapped animal.  While that didn't happen last night citizens have been assured that is the proper procedure.  Thank you to San Angelo City Councilman Lane Carter for his interest and support on this concerning situation and to ACO Floyd Bias for his timely and compassionate response.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Pets Dying on Old Christoval Road

Over the last two weeks dogs have killed numerous pets in the Old Christoval Road/Glenmore Park area.  On Monday, February 27th a citizen found five dead cats, a dead fox and numerous pet body parts.  The citizen took them to a local veterinarian hoping to find the cause.

That very night I personally saw three dogs in the area where the five bodies were found.  One dog was aggressive to small animals and clearly hunting for more prey.  I saw the other two running nearby.  We called the police non-emergency number and filed a report.  The police wanted to know the results of the veterinarian's testing as to cause.

Neighbors up and down Christoval Road began communicating about the situation.  They learned that two small dogs had been killed in a resident's fenced in backyard.  This occurred before the mass mauling last Monday. Others found their outdoor cats dead in their yard.

The carnage continues nearly on a daily basis.  One concerned citizen and dog lover saw two different packs of dogs this past weekend.  She and a neighbor found another dead cat during their tour of the neighborhood and called the police non-emergency number.

Just yesterday a resident heard dogs barking loudly as they chased his outdoor cats at 5:00 am.  He did not contact the authorities.

The veterinarian determined a number of the cats died from injuries obtained from an animal attack.  Several others were puzzling in that it appeared the cats died prior to being mauled.  The vet sent out samples for more testing.

Yet another cat died this evening with evidence of significant trauma.  It's clear the majority of the thirty pet deaths in this neighborhood the last two weeks are from dog attacks. 

The loss of beloved pets is serious.  I am aware of at least three phone calls to the San Angelo Police Department over this period.  These calls were made after hours when Animal Control Officers are not available to members of the general public.

Dog packs are running up and down the river on a regular basis.  So far the small moving creatures they've targeted have been pets.  That could change and a small child's life could potentially be in danger.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Republic's Expert Forensic Accountant Is Decade Off

The Standard Times Mike Kelly defended Republic Services audit of unauthorized billing of commercial customers over a decade's time.  Mr. Kelly posted Republic's audit on his personal Scribd account, which has a total of 7 documents listed. 

Republic Waste Services
Expert Report of Gregory A Shanabrook
1. I have been retained by Republic Waste Services of Texas, Ltd. (“Republic”, “Defendants”) inconnection with the case between Acme Iron & Metal Company, Mayfield Paper Company, Inc., and those similarly situated (collectively the “Plaintiffs”) and Defendants.

2. In 2004, the City of San Angelo (the “City”) solicited proposals to provide solid waste management services for a future term. During that process, questions arose regarding Republic’s past charges to commercial and industrial customers. Republic determined to make a refund of the fuel recovery fees and environmental recovery fees charged in excess of the fuel fees expressly stated in City ordinances (referred to herein as “refundable fees”).
Expert forensic accountant Shanabrook needs to correct his report to 2014, not 2004, and resubmit it to the court.

The city did not conduct an internal investigation as to how this unauthorized billing occurred over the terms of Will Wilde, Ricky Dickson and Shane Kelton. These three gentlemen had operational responsibility for monitoring Republic's performance and compliance with contract provisions. The city did produce a one page investigation which concluded Republic billed and collected unauthorized fees on a long term basis.

Republic Services had two different accounting systems during their decade of unauthorized fee billing.

The city never caught this and once informed let Republic clean up its fraudulent mess. It has run away from internal review and management scrutiny at every turn.

I trust Mr. Shanabrook to correct his honest mistake. His was in one line of a report not over 5,900 customer accounts, ten years, three city leaders and two accounting systems.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Trash Audit: War of the Words

Investigative journalist Wayne Dolchefino traveled to San Angelo to ask officials about the internal audit conducted on unauthorized fees charged by Republic Services, formerly Trashaway.  The unauthorized fees impacted commercial clients beginning in 2004.

Two city officials referenced the audit in June 2014.

Mahaffey told the Standard-Times that the audit report would not be made public.

City Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer said that the audit committee reviewed the findings of the audit of the commercial charges and there will be a press conference held by Republic sometime this week to announce the findings and the resolution. 
San Angelo's Public Information Office Anthony Wilson officially started on September 1, 2012.  At the time he told the Standard Times:

"We have a responsibility to inform our citizenry what we're doing and why we're doing it. While I believe we deliver an extraordinary level of service, we don't always effectively share that story with the public we serve. We'll aim to tell that story through every available means."
Dolchefino wants answers on the 2014 internal city audit referenced by city officials, the one conducted before Republic hired an accounting firm.  In the video Wilson talks trash audit, the one conducted by a forensic accountant on behalf of Republic Services after the city effectively re-upped their contract.

Forensic Accounting:  the use of accounting skills to investigate fraud or embezzlement and to analyze financial information for use in legal proceedings.
Wilson said Republic's forensic audit is available via the fraudulent billing lawsuit filed in Tom Green County Court, a case in which the city has no part.

That means the city has no audit at all, neither the one referenced in June 2014 by the city's internal auditor and Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer nor the forensic accounting audit conducted on behalf of the city's longtime trash vendor.  It does have a one page investigation, which can hardly be construed as an audit.

The Standard Times, San Angelo Live and this blog advised city officials, elected and paid to conduct an investigation and share it with the public before acting on a long term trash/landfill contract.  I wrote in June 2014:

It seems prudent to extend the Republic contract for six months, have an outside audit investigation, hear those results and corresponding legal considerations and based on those findings consider whether to rebid the trash/landfill contract.  Moving forward with many questions unanswered feels like a rush to renew.  Unfortunately, that would fit with both language and actions by Council and staff the last ten months.

 It's time to take a step back, not rush forward
In July 2014 I reiterated:

I stand by my original suggestion that the new contract be put on hold, the city hire an outside firm to investigate this long term overcharge (under city leaders Will Wilde, Ricky Dickson and Shane Kelton) and share the results of that investigation with the public.  What communications occurred between these gentlemen and Trashaway-Republic on unauthorized charges?
City leaders chose to go ahead with promises to hold Republic accountable.   I don't believe the city can be more hands off in a potential fraud case perpetrated by a sole source vendor over a decade's time.  Republic gets to clean up their mess while city officials stick their heads in the sand, pulling it out every now and then to admonish those asking questions. 

It's the city's opportunity to effectively share how public officials ever audited Republic with those they serve.  Wilson's latest video is way off target.