To the Editor:
On Tuesday, Sept. 8, I attended the meeting of the Sumter County Board of Commissioners. I attended specifically to inquire as to why a $5.8 million dollar 3-year contract had not been bid out in compliance with FL State statute 287.057. The contract was for IT (information technology) management and support.
The statute outlines if the purchase price of commodities or contractual services exceeds a set threshold (the thresholds go from $20,000 to $325,000) “purchase of commodities or contractual services may not be made without receiving competitive sealed bids, competitive sealed proposals or competitive sealed replies.” The only exception is in the case of immediate danger to the public health, safety or welfare or other substantial loss (i.e., emergency situations).
The contract in question was a three-year contract valued in total at $5.8 million for IT support services with the company, The Villages Technology Solutions Group (TSG). There was no RFP (request for proposal) included with the meeting agenda but the agreement/contract was provided with the notation “staff recommends approval.” There were at least five (5) other contracts on the agenda each having gone through the state mandated bid process. The value of these contracts ranged from $140,000 to $1.2 million.
I posed the question to the commission chairman, Steve Printz, who did not respond to my question. My past experience with the county commissioners at meetings is that they do not answer questions. The county administrator, Bradley Arnold, did answer stating “sometimes the process is fluid.” I was surprised by his response that the county could ignore the state’s statutes regarding purchasing and procurement especially in a very high value, multi-year agreement. The county attorney was also in attendance and made no comment.
One of the newly elected county commissioners, Oren Miller, respectfully requested all the contracts on the agenda be granted a 90-day extension so that the three incoming commissioners could weigh in when they take office after Nov. 1 instead of entering into multi-year agreement. Mr. Miller’s request was denied. All contracts on the agenda, including the one for TSG were approved in a 4-0 vote.
Prior to asking my questions another resident posed several IT specific questions to the commissioners regarding TSG’s ability to provide adequate service. This resident had worked for many years in the IT business and asked very comprehensive questions that anyone considering a contract of this size should have asked as well. The only response came from Mr. Arnold who stated that the company is located in the US specifically in offices in Sumter Landing (but soon to be moving to offices in Brownwood) and that TSG had been providing IT support since 2010. When questioned about what other companies TSG provided service to the response was that they provided IT services to two Constitutional Offices in Sumter County. Those are the offices of the Supervisor of Elections and the County Appraiser. From Mr. Arnold’s comment it appears TSG is a local or regional company. Mr. Arnold further stated the contract contained a performance clause. This clause is included in contracts to hold supplier to a certain level of service and if that is not achieved consequences are spelled out which usually are a deduction in the contracted payment. Mr. Arnold assured there was a performance clause. There is not a performance clause in this contract. There are service level performance metrics but no mention of any consequence if these metrics are not met.
In my past corporate experience, I was always required to obtain competitive bids for goods or services in excess of a set amount which in most cases was $10,000 and this included work with government entities (state and federal). I couldn’t understand how the commissioners and the administrator could ignore this standard business practice and say they were upholding their fiduciary duty to effectively manage the money of Sumter County.
Sumter County first entered into an agreement with TSG in March 2010. There were contract extensions in 2012, 2016 and 2020.There was no RFP extended for the 2020 agreement (as previously stated by Mr. Arnold) and a request for the RFP’s for 2010, 2012 and 2016 was made to the Sumter County Records Department. I have had no response to the request. So, it appears that Sumter County entered into no bid contracts on multiple years without even considering other IT companies. Yet on other contracts with a far lower financial impact the competitive bid process was followed.
Doing basic business records research, I found that TSG was incorporated November 1, 2011 listing (Charles) Dale Borrowman as owner. Dun and Bradstreet lists the incorporation date, that the company has 14 employees and an annual revenue of $2.18 million. The address for the business is listed as 2866 Carriage Court, The Villages, FL, 32162. This address is for a residence in Glen Hollow Farm (aka The Morse Family compound).
The first year of the approved 2020 contract extension is valued at $1.872 million so 86 percent of the total annual revenue for TSG is derived from Sumter County. Is this the best company to be providing IT support to Sumter County? We will never know as no other companies were ever considered.
Village of Lake Deaton