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Menendez: County has problems with bid 'solution'
Friday, August 08, 2003
It's supposed to be an innovative addition to the way government contracts are awarded, but Hudson County's first attempt at using it has run afoul of politics.
It's called competitive contracting, and it falls in between the awarding of no-bid contracts and conventional bidding, under which contracts are supposed to be awarded to the low bidder, even if another firm might provide better overall value despite a higher price.
Under competitive contracting, the use of which the county authorized this year, bids are evaluated on a variety of factors and a contract awarded to the firm with the best overall score.
But the county's attempt to use competitive contracting for "operations and management of information services," whatever that is, has created a storm cloud that may burst at Thursday's meeting of the Board of Freeholders.
The firm that was rated highest by the evaluation committee and was thus in line for the five-year contract is Hindsight, Inc., of Flemington, which bid $4.1 million.
Desktop Company Services, a Bridgewater-based firm, bid $3.3 million and felt it was being stiffed by not getting the contract. Desktop's objections caused the freeholders to previously delay awarding a new contract and instead extend Hindsight's existing contract for several months while reviewing the procedures - which in itself drew some flak, as Freeholder Bill O'Dea of Jersey City questioned the county evaluation committee's credentials.
Adding a political flavor to the matter was a letter from Rep. Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken, lauding Hindsight's "long and distinguished history of public service within Hudson County and elsewhere statewide" and inviting anyone with questions about the firm to contact his congressional office. If that wasn't unusual enough, the letter found its way into the Hindsight bid package. That roused former Hudson County Freeholder Louis Manzo of Jersey City, the Democratic nominee for Assembly in the 31st District. Manzo, no friend of the congressman, said the letter was a heavy-handed attempt to influence the freeholders, if not scare them, into awarding the contract to Hindsight.
Manzo said it had "a chilling effect" on the freeholders' ability to decide impartially. Menendez said he saw nothing wrong with writing a letter of recommendation for a firm with which he first did business when he was mayor of Union City. "Lou Manzo never recommended a firm?" Menendez asked. Manzo claimed he hadn't.
Perhaps giving the freeholders more pause is Paul J. Byrne's association with a Desktop principal. Byrne, always a controversial figure on the county political scene, attained even more notoriety when he was recently fingered from the witness stand at a federal trial as a bribe conduit by disgraced former Hudson County Executive Janiszewski.
Two weeks ago, the freeholders received a letter from Hindsight's attorneys arguing that the firm was fairly judged the best by the county evaluation committee and that there is no reason it shouldn't get the contract. "We therefore anticipate that the (freeholder) board will award the contract to Hindsight, Inc., at its next meeting," the lawyers said, with perhaps more hope than foresight.
Here is a copy of the letter mentioned in the above Jersey Journal article.
Here is the New Jersey State Law known as the "Local Public Contracts Law Regulations" N.J.A.C. 5:34-4.1 Administration of Competitive Contracting Process. Click Here
News report from URBAN TIMES NEWS, by Steven Glazer
----- Original Message -----
From: Steven Glazer
Sent: Monday, July 07, 2003 5:35 AM
Subject: MENENDEZ LOBBIES FOR TECH VENDOR-MANZO SHOWS FREEHOLDERS "PITCH" LETTER
Steven Glazer, email: email@example.com
Urban Times News
Union City—Congressman Robert Menendez, D-13, has used the power and influence of his office to recommend a favored supplier of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. The supplier, Hindsight, had been higher than other bidders by as much a $1 Million for the same services to the County government. Menendez put the letter of recommendation on Congressional stationary using his own House of Representatives letterhead at about the same time the computer service firm was bidding on a County contract.
Principals of Hindsight have been frequent and generous campaign contributors to Menendez, former County Executive Robert Janiszewski and the Hudson County Democratic Organization. By Hudson County Freeholders’ rules that would make Menendez a lobbyist, as Assemblyman apparent Louis Manzo told Freeholders, “This is your own definition.” Manzo said that Menendez had not registered as a lobbyist as required by law putting the Congressman in violation of State and County laws.
Menendez started his political career in Union City during the scandal-tainted administration of former Mayor Bill Musto. The letter refers to the work the vendor did for Union City and its schools. Musto wound up convicted of corruption in a scheme that included Mafia contractors overbilling the school board in Union City where Menendez was in charge of issuing fraudulent payments to the contractors. Menendez personally signed every check issued in the scheme.
All those involved in the scheme were convicted except one of the contractors against whom the federal prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence, and Menendez. Menendez was unscathed by the prosecution, though intimately involved with Musto. Musto treated the young aspiring politician like a son even giving Menendez room and board in Musto’s own home at one point. Yet Menendez was never indicted for any part of the corrupt scheme, and went on to become Mayor of Union City.
As a former Mayor of Union City and now, a senior member of the House of Representatives, said to be the third ranking Democrat in Congress, such a recommendation from Menendez would seem highly influential anywhere in New Jersey and particularly in Hudson County or any of its towns where it was presented to induce business.
HOBOKEN RESIDENT REPLIES.......
----- Original Message -----
From: John Glasel
To: "Letters Jersey Journal" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, August 08, 2003 12:37 PM
Subject: Re: "County has problems with bid 'solution,'" page 1, 8/8/03
To the Editor:
Hudson County's first use of its new competitive contracting method, far from causing "problems," is doing exactly what it's intended to do: informing the public of previously invisible governmental dealings. Now voters can at least ask questions like (1) why the proposed winning bidder in this case is worth 25 percent more than the loser, (2) how much of the $800,000 difference reflects past or future political contributions, and (3) what services are being purchased (even your columnist wasn't sure). It may well be, as the county's Democratic leader says, that this winner has a "long and distinguished history of public service." If so, the newly transparent process can renew voters' confidence in politicians, especially if it helps explain why such large premiums can be paid to contractors.
If not, the method may help our leaders economize expenditure of our tax dollars. Either way, it's definitely not a "problem."
Desktop Computers Services
Desktop Computer Services
7 Ten Broek Court
Bridgewater, New Jersey 08807
July 18, 2003
The Honorable Thomas DeGise
Hudson County Executive
583 Newark Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Dear Mr. DeGise:
Let me introduce myself, I am Al Poreda, President of Desktop Computer Services.
I am writing in regards to the contract for management of the County’s computers and telecommunications systems. By this letter I wish to provide you with additional information that clearly demonstrates that my company, Desktop Computer Services, should be awarded this contract. My comments are directed at the criteria of cost, technical and managerial expertise used by the administration to evaluate the proposals submitted.
Desktop Computers bid of $3,324,000 was $829,450 less than Hindsight’s bid of $4,153,450, the incumbent and vendor recommended by the administration. The selection committee members awarded more points for Hindsight’s bid even though the criteria clearly stated that ‘out-of-skew’ bids were to get zero points. I would also like to point out that Hindsight’s bid is 25% higher than the price they are currently charging the County. Can the administration justify approving a 25% price increase without any material increase in the scope of work and at a time when the County budget is increasing by 10%?
The RFP required vendors to document their expertise in 25 different areas. Desktop Computers proposal documented experience in 24 out of the 25 areas. Hindsight’s proposal listed experience in all 25 areas. Why was Desktop Computers only given 80 points for technical expertise while Hindsight was awarded 135 points? Can one area be worth an additional 55 points?
I was personally responsible for the management of the County’s Information Systems prior to the awarding of this contract to Hindsight 10 years ago. I know the systems at the county and the needs of its end users. I also have over 25 years experience as an IT professional. I have worked for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Computer Associates International. Computer Associates International is the largest provider of Computer/Networking solutions in the world. I consulted with their clients on how to effectively manage their portfolio of computers, networking and telecom components. This is exactly what the contract at Hudson County involves. In addition, I have a contract with the City of Hoboken involving the design, installation and maintenance of an internal and external data network, similar to the network at the county.
Desktop Computers has provided computer support to various departments within the county for the past five years. My proposal included recommendations from the Prosecutors Office, the County Register and the County Jail. It is worth noting that Hindsight did not obtain the recommendation from any department/agency within the county. This is a vendor who has provided services for the past ten years.
Has the administration ever conducted a survey of county users to determine their level of satisfaction with the services provided by Hindsight?
In a recent article appearing in the Jersey City Reporter a spokesman for the administration said that one of the overriding factors in awarding this contract to Hindsight is the experience of their staff. I would like to point out that prior to working for the county five out of seven of Hindsight’s staff had little or no prior government or related computer experience. For example, prior jobs included working in a retail store, restaurant manager, recreation center manager, administrative assistant for a real estate developer and shop floor foreman for a manufacturer. It is interesting that Hindsight’s staff without any prior expertise as called for in the RFP was able to perform the work at the county, while my staff ALL of whom have extensive experience in the required technologies is viewed as ‘not as qualified’.
The administration also stated that county’s systems are so complex that only Hindsight is capable of maintaining them. It is worth noting that all of the computer, telecom and networking systems at the county are all standard commercially available systems What’s the difference between maintaining a Dell computer at Hudson County compared to Union County? Perhaps the following analogy will illustrate the point better. Would you pay a vendor to maintain the county’s fleet of motor vehicles almost a million dollars more than the next qualified vendor?
By every measure Desktop Computers has documented its managerial expertise to perform the work as outlined in the RFP. Can the administration’s selection committee justify how Hindsight should be awarded 320 points to only 150 points given to Desktop Computers? Perhaps the selection committee can explain the basis for their scoring. Unfortunately, their rationale was absent from their recommendation report.
Mr. DeGise, in your position as County Executive you have the opportunity to you make a clean break with the past administration that left office in disgrace. I urge you to demonstrate your leadership by recommending to the Board of Freeholders that Desktop Computers be awarded the contract for the management and administration of the County’s computer and telecommunications systems and save the taxpayers of Hudson County $830,00.
cc: Board of Chosen Freeholders
Paul J. Byrne Replies
----- Original Message -----
From: Pierre Lapew
Sent: Saturday, August 09, 2003 11:24 AM
Subject: letter to the Editor
August 8, 2003
The Jersey Journal
Letters to the Editor
30 Journal Square
Jersey City, New Jersey 07306
To the Editor:
I read Peter Weiss' column today regarding the battle between Desktop Computer Services and Hindsight, Inc. for Hudson County's information technology contract. Being that we are in the season of Saratoga and the Haskell, please note that I have no horses in this race. I have no professional interest in either company. Hindsight loyally performed computer services for Hudson County, the HCDO and Bob and Beth Janiszewski during the Janiszewski administration. The fact that the bid for Desktop Computer Services was nearly $1 million less than Hindsight should speak louder than any political allegiances, past or present.
Paul J. Byrne
PO Box 8523
Somerville, New Jersey 08876
August 13, 2003
The Honorable Silverio “Sal” Vega
Chairman, Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders
595 Pavonia Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Re: RFP for the Operation, Management and Administration of the County’s Management Information Systems and Related Telecomm Service
Dear Chairman Vega,
I attended the Freeholders caucus on Tuesday, August 12, 2003. I appreciated hearing the Freeholder Board raise their concerns regarding the administrations recommendation to award this contract to Hindsight. This open and honest discussion of the facts is exactly what the competitive bidding law is intended to foster.
I was born and raised in Jersey City. I graduated from Dickinson High School in Jersey City and from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. I own a home in Jersey City.
In my presentation before the Board of Freeholders in May I promised to hire residents from North Bergen, West New York, Union City and other Hudson County municipalities. I stand by this promise and am confident that I can provide employment to qualified residents of Hudson County.
In response to question raised by a board member regarding Desktop Computers state certification, I attached for your review a copy of my state certification and Certificate of Formation contained in my bid proposal.
During the past three months my company has spent considerable time and expense responding to this RFP. I believe that I have documented that my company is qualified to perform the work required under this contract. My bid amount was almost $1 million less than the highest bidder. I am asking the Board of Freeholders today to award this contract to Desktop Computers.
President Desktop Computers
Desktop Computer Services
Re: Operation, Management and Administration of the County's IT and Telecom Services
Yesterday's vote by the Hudson County Board of Freeholders to award a contract to Hindsight Inc., is a serve blow to taxpayers and job seekers in Hudson County. The Board voted 8-1 in favor of Hindsight in spite of the serious concerns raised by the Freeholders at the caucus last Tuesday, August 12th.
-Hindsight's bid was almost $1million dollars more than any of the other bids -
The selection committee did not possess the required technical expertise or objectivity to fairly evaluate the proposals submitted.
It is clear that the administration acted in a capricious and arbitrary manner by awarding more points to Hindsight for their bid that was $830,000 higher than the bid of Desktop Computers. The administration's point scoring criteria indicates that bid's that are substantially higher are to receive zero points.
Is it any wonder that the administration refuses to make public the selection committee members scoring sheets? Besides the additional taxes residents of Hudson County will have to pay, they will also lose employment opportunities.
I promised to hire Hudson County residents to fill the required jobs if my company was awarded this contract. I will instruct my counsel to file suit before the assignment judge in order to remedy this injustice.
Al Poreda President
Desktop Computer Services
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