Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Crime Cameras finally in Focus

So if you read this blog you know I have been digging into the crime camera debacle, even before the TP. The IG officially released their investigation findings to Jim Letten and the Fed. Here is the official report:

The Official IG Crime Camera Report

I am not going to revamp this whole story, as I don't have time, but having read the report, I will summarize my take on it. Here's the summary:

Meffert, as CTO,  contracted Active Solutions and Southern Electronic Supply in the beginning to deploy 1000 cameras in the city without a competitive bid. After only 214 cameras were actually deployed, they then fucked Active Solutions and Southern, and pushed the contract to themselves by using Ciber and Dell as shell contractors.

Active Solutions and Southern Electronic subsequently filed suit against Dell. Due to a protective order filed by the city "and other parties" which sprung from the case, much of the details of the contract were not accessible to the IG's office.


I want to share a comment I received from someone within Meffert's crew which I received when I first started digging into this story...I never actually published it until now:

A lot of other people are reading that comment - you know, the one that is making you piss in your pants - with the addition that we all know that you are not interested in the truth. We know you won't publish that comment. All of us. It is so evident to everyone now(the real press, included) that you are not interested in the truth. Greg Meffert is smarter than you are - all legally, too - and you feel like a big political loser. You are right.

He was referring to a previous comment where he thought he had identified me...he didn't, because he was an idiot. "Greg Meffert is smarter than you are" me man. I just had to post that before I note this part of the report:

Finding 1. The MOT used subcontracts to evade open competition for professional service contracts.

The CTO (MUPPET) set about staffing the MOT with individuals who had formerly worked with him in private sector companies. He accomplished this not by hiring these individuals as City employees, but by using the MIS department‟s information technology contracts with several companies, including ACS State and Local Solutions, Inc. (ACS) and Ciber, Inc. (Ciber), as subcontracting vehicles. The CTO arranged for ACS and Ciber to subcontract with Imagine Software, LLC (Imagine) and other related companies founded by the CTO‟s former private sector associates. The MOT‟s records show that Imagine and its related companies did not act as agents through which prime contractors ACS and Ciber performed their duties, as would be the case in a legitimate subcontract relationship. Instead, principals and employees of Imagine and its related companies reported directly to the CTO and held management positions at the MOT, including the position of project manager for the City‟s surveillance camera project. In essence, the subcontracts appeared to be little more than a mechanism for directing payments from the City to Imagine and its related companies. The Home Rule Charter for the City of New Orleans (City Charter) requires contracts for professional services to be awarded on the basis of an advertised, competitive selection process established by executive order of the Mayor. According to City officials and records provided by the City, Imagine and its related companies were brought in to provide professional services, but were not selected through an advertised competition. The MOT essentially used the guise of subcontractor relationships with prime contractors such as ACS and Ciber to sidestep the City Charter requirement for competitive contractor selection.

Finding 2. The City failed to observe fundamental rules for accountability and transparency in its dealings with subcontractors.

Despite the active roles played by principals and employees of Imagine and its related companies in the management and operation of the MOT, these individuals were not City employees and therefore not accountable for devoting their full-time efforts to the City‟s interests. It was incumbent on the City to ensure that these subcontractors worked under written agreements that included conflict of interest and other ethics rules similar to the following provision, which is included in the City‟s contracts for professional services: In the interest of ensuring that efforts of the Contractor do not conflict with the interests of the City, and in recognition of the Contractor’s responsibility to the City, the Contractor agrees to decline any offer of employment if its independent work on behalf of the City is likely to be adversely affected by the acceptance of such employment. But City officials told the OIG that they did not obtain copies of subcontracts and typically did not know the terms of the agreements under which Imagine and its related companies were employed. The City‟s practice of using subcontractors to manage MOT operations created potential conflicts of interest and opportunities for self-dealing as detailed in Finding 17 and Finding 18. The City appeared to exercise little control over the activities of Imagine and its related companies. In general, the City did not require or receive time sheets, work statements or other documentation to support payments to these subcontractors. The only records the City provided in response to the OIG request for documentation were records the City prepared to substantiate requests to FEMA for reimbursement. The City apparently did not obtain documentation to support payments to Imagine and its related companies unless required to do so as a condition of reimbursement. smart are you now dipshit?

Alright back to the meat. So what happens next is that Muppett resigns in 2006 - Post K - and in steps Mark Kurt...Imagine crony 2.0. From the report:

The Resignation of the City‟s First CTO A news story that appeared in the Times-Picayune on July 18, 2006, reported that the City‟s first CTO had resigned and quoted the Mayor as saying that the administration was “now challenged with the task of recruiting a qualified individual to fill his shoes as we continue to rebuild our city.” The City did not, however, undertake a recruitment process. Instead, the CTO position was transferred immediately to a former Imagine co-owner who was working at the MOT as a subcontractor.

After the storm the antennae array for the Camera system was moved by Kurt to the top of One Shell Sqaure and put under a maintenance contract with Imagine company:

After Hurricane Katrina, the City located communications equipment used for some of the surveillance cameras and for other City emergency networks on the roof of One Shell Square in downtown New Orleans. At that time, Veracent (an Imagine-related company) provided professional services to the MIS Department under a subcontractor. The Veracent founder and principal was working under the subcontract as a member of the MOT staff

Veracent then started charging the city to maintain the array. Shortly afterwords Kurt quit (after all this shit started coming to light) and within months Veracent sent the city an approx. 250k bill for "maintaining" the array. The pisser here is that before the array was moved and put under the tutelage of Veracent, it was located on a downtown building in which the owner had donated the space to the Kurt moved the array from a free location to a paid one under Veracent's billing cycle.

Finding 18. The MOT tacitly approved an improper lease deal that allowed a subcontractor to profit from self-dealing. Despite its subcontract relationship with the City, Veracent entered into an agreement on April 1, 2006, with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the owner of One Shell Square, to acquire the rights to the antenna site used by the City. Under the terms of the five-year agreement with Metropolitan Life, Veracent controlled the use of the site, for which it paid a monthly fee of $1,500.00 with 5 percent annual increases. According to court documents subsequently filed by Veracent, the City entered into an oral agreement to sublet the site from Veracent for $3,150.00 per month. A draft of a proposed written agreement indicates that Veracent offered to enter into a written agreement for the City to pay Veracent $6,500.00 per month, increasing to $7,100.00 per month in 2009, but it does not appear that the City accepted this proposal. The City‟s records show that the City paid $4,165.88 per month for the site in 2008. The City‟s lease payments were not made to Veracent directly, but were paid through an unrelated contract with another company so that the City had no records of payments to Veracent, further eroding accountability and transparency. In September of 2007, Veracent sent an email to the City‟s Chief Administrative Officer complaining that the City had not made lease payments for six months and threatening to remove the City‟s equipment from the rooftop site. This action would have shut down much of the City‟s Public Safety Network, including many surveillance cameras and telephone, fax, and internet connections for police and fire stations. The City of New Orleans filed a civil action, seeking an injunction to prevent Veracent from removing the communications equipment. Court records show that the City subsequently entered into an agreement to pay a settlement to resolve Veracent‟s claim, thereby averting a shutoff. The Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics prohibits public employees from engaging in financial dealings with the public agency that employs them. Louisiana courts have interpreted this law to apply to individuals working under contracts with public agencies as well as to public employees. Veracent was technically a subcontractor and therefore had no contract with the City, hence it is not clear whether Veracent‟s actions in this case violated the state ethics law. Regardless of whether this self-dealing was illegal, Veracent‟s actions and the MOT‟s tacit approval created an appearance of impropriety and resulted in the City paying more than it should have for the lease.

This is rich too:

Finding 17. The MOT named a Veracent employee as the project manager responsible for overseeing Veracent’s work on the project. The MOT‟s records show that the original project manager was replaced by a Veracent employee in 2006. In this role, the Veracent employee was responsible for contract oversight and for inspecting and approving work performed by Southern and by other contractors. The MOT compromised project oversight when it allowed the project manager‟s employer, Veracent, to perform the work. If the MOT followed the inspection protocol called for in the Southern contract for Veracent‟s work, the project manager would have been in the untenable position of inspecting and approving or rejecting his employer‟s work. In fact, the City provided no records of any inspections of Veracent‟s work.

Then comes Kurt's departure:

The Resignation of the City‟s Second CTO On February 12, 2007, the City‟s second CTO resigned after serving in that position for only seven months. In his resignation letter, the CTO informed the Mayor and the Chief Administrative Officer that he had transitioned his responsibilities to the MIS Enterprise Director to make sure there were no gaps in continuity. After resigning, the CTO sought an opinion from the Louisiana Board of Ethics concerning the propriety of his accepting a position with Ciber. The Board of Ethics opined on May 11, 2007, that he was not prohibited from accepting a position so long as his employment with Ciber did not involve Ciber‟s contract with the City of New Orleans and he did not represent Ciber in dealings with the Office of Technology. The second CTO stepped down in February 2007 and the MIS Enterprise Director took over as Interim Chief Technology Officer, a position he held until July 31, 2008.

Enter Anthony Jones....unqualified patsy.

Now the story had broke and they decide to submit a new legal bid for deploying 100 more crime cameras. An Alabama company, LSI (incidentally I suspect Ciber may have introduced this company into the fold), comes in well under Veracent's bid at $49,900/camera array and was subsequently awarded the bid. But this turned into a fiasco. Jones then authorized our BFF, Ciber, dba City of New Orleans, to "just make the shit work....I don't care what it costs.":

Finding 24. In 2008, the MOT entered into a no-bid, open-ended agreement for a major project to enhance its communications network without determining the likely cost. According to Ciber, the MOT authorized Ciber to do whatever was necessary to make the system operational without any estimate of how much it would cost. In February of 2008, Ciber submitted a proposed scope of work for the month to the Interim CTO, with estimated hours of work and material costs. The Interim CTO signed the proposal and Ciber proceeded with the first phase of its work, which was to troubleshoot the existing surveillance network. Ciber expected the City to prepay for proposed services each month and indicated that work would be stopped if payments were not made. The Interim CTO authorized Ciber to implement the surveillance camera project as a continuation of a contract awarded three years earlier, in June of 2005, for professional services to migrate the City‟s business applications from an IBM mainframe environment to a Microsoft browser-based environment.9 The surveillance camera work bore no resemblance to the services Ciber was contracted to provide, but the MOT was able to circumvent the requirement for a competitive procurement by treating the project as a continuation of services under the old contract. In reality, the new agreement with Ciber was a no-bid contract that included an entirely new scope of professional services and implementation of a public works project. Prudent project management practices and the City‟s procurement rules called for the MOT to issue a professional services RFP for a consultant to troubleshoot and design the solution to networking infrastructure problems and then prepare an IFB to obtain a competitive, fixed price for the equipment and labor needed to implement the design. By side-stepping these procedures, the MOT not only violated state bidding law, City Charter and Code requirements, and the Mayor‟s Executive Order, but effectively handed Ciber a blank check in the form of a time and materials contract with no maximum cost. The no-bid arrangement with Ciber included no requirements for payment or performance bonds, no provisions for inspecting work, and no standards or performance guaranty to hold Ciber accountable for the quality or outcome of the project. Each month, from February through July of 2008, Ciber submitted invoices for estimated time and materials based on Ciber‟s proposed scope of work. Ciber began with site surveys and assessments needed to prepare a design then proceeded to purchase and install equipment. Much of the labor was subcontracted to LSI, TSG and other unidentified subcontractors. According to a report submitted to the City by Ciber, the City‟s aggressive timeline contributed to higher costs and by June 2008, more than 15 workers were deployed in the field with 8 bucket trucks involved in installation. According to Ciber‟s report to the City, the project was complete on July 31, 2008, when 205 out of 214 cameras were functional. The total amount billed by Ciber in monthly cost estimates was $2,527,540.53. As was the case with the Southern, Veracent, and LSI work, the MOT did not maintain records to document the work performed by Ciber and its subcontractors. City officials told the OIG that Ciber did not provide a report of actual hours of labor on the project that could be reconciled with Ciber‟s billings, which were based on estimated hours.

Then....of course.....the shit still doesn't work. Read the report for further detail.

Keep in mind that Meffert and crew now have an entire business installing crime cameras nationwide: here and here and LOGISTIX here.

Check these shots out of how the antenna was mounted to pole:

Duct'll fix anything!

This reminds me of India:


Anonymous said...

I agree with 95% of the OIG's report. 5% of it is not accurate but given the fact that the OIG wasn't able to get all the documents I'm pretty shocked they nailed it as good as they did.

We will see some formal federal indictments on this coming very soon. The city is going to have to settle with Southern after this report IMO.

The big question is Finding 15--who is the unanamed unaffiliated contractor who recieved the money?????? You think its a coincidence the Head/Midura/Fielkow emails were given to Tracie Washington? What those councilmembers don't know is that these crooks have been reading their emails for years without their knowledge.

The Feds case has been intentionally tampered with for years unbeknownst to even them until a few months ago.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Actually they (city council) did know they were being read...I'm very confident they knew. It goes much deeper than just emails being read...I have it from very good source their personal phones were tapped as well.

And the Fed isn't as "unbeknownst" as you may my opinion.

I haven't heard that any indictments will come down but I hope your worry is that the only one that will get charged is Jones and he's just a poor, fucking tool who took a 150k job and thought he'd hit the lottery.

I can tell you this....the story I am desperately trying to get will induce "shock and awe" at just how bad this administration is. A hint is the Ciber connection....these guys have manipulated everything and they are at the core of every fucking MIS scandal we have.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry about Mr. Jones. Don't think for a minute this incompetent patsy will go down for the sins of others. The Feds were until recently unware of much of this. The "smoking guns" came out of the woodwork and provided exactly what was needed.

This will reach the City of Baton Rouge as well. Same people same modus operandi.

I am 100% confident the government has everything they need to charge almost everyone. You think Anthony Jones is going to go to jail for Meffert, Drake, St. Pierre? Wonder if some of the key individuals have already started working with the feds......hmmmmm

Anonymous said...

Keep up the great work Dambala! I've been following this story since you broke it.

'Very happy to see these new developments.

Jason Brad Berry said...

- I am 100% confident the government has everything they need to charge almost everyone. You think Anthony Jones is going to go to jail for Meffert, Drake, St. Pierre? Wonder if some of the key individuals have already started working with the feds......hmmmmm

God I hope your right. You just made my night.

Jason Brad Berry said...

- This will reach the City of Baton Rouge as well. Same people same modus operandi.

Incidentally, I know what you're referring to there. Nice.

Jason Brad Berry said...

damn you're...not your....sorry....

Anonymous said...

"I have it from very good source their personal phones were tapped as well."

- office phones? home phones? cell phones? all of the above?

Jason Brad Berry said...

all of the above.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Dambala. Keep the heat on, man.

T-Shirts and Bumper Stickers said...

Aside from the great content in your post, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, i.e., the duct tape. C. Ray touts this as some cutting edge technology where New Orleans is in the forefront and other big time cities like Chicago are following us, but that's a complete lie.

Jason Brad Berry said...

That would answer a lot of question marks for me. I have been seriously stumped as to the intention of the Fed, knowing they know what they know and knowing they have evidence most people aren't aware they have.

But it also raises the question as to why the IG jumped the gun....was there a motivation behind it or was it simply a misstep?

Anonymous said...

Logistix, LLC

Chris Drake currently serves as a principal at Logistix, a consultancy providing vision, strategy, marketing and execution advice and management to corporate executives and municipal leaders focused on using wireless networks to deliver next-generation services and solutions.

Prior to Logistix, Mr. Drake served as CTO for NetMethods, where he designed, and successfully implemented major Wi-Fi mesh, video surveillance, public safety and communications projects for customers such as City of New Orleans, City of Baton Rouge, City of Lafayette, EarthLink, Motorola, British Telecom, New Orleans Police Department, and Louisiana Region 1 and 2 Homeland Security. Prior to NetMethods, Mr. Drake held various management and technical positions at a large insurance provider, a regional bank, and his own technology consultancy.

Mr. Drake attended Baylor University, where he earned a BA degree. He also earned a Masters degree from Tulane University, and a Master in Business Administration from SLU.