By Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun
1:50 PM EST, December 12, 2012
Baltimore officials voted on Wednesday to extend the contracts of two firms that provide many of the city's information technology workers, saying they needed more time before allowing other companies to compete for the work.
Under the terms of a $2.4 million deal, Digicon Corp. will continue to provide the Mayor's Office of Information Technology with staffers for an additional six months. The administration also extended the contract of another IT staffing firm, Telecommunication Systems Inc., for $2.7 million over six months.
The five-member Board of Estimates, which is controlled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, approved the extensions by a 3-1 vote at its meeting Wednesday. Comptroller Joan M. Pratt voted no. City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young abstained.
"My concern is that in June they said they would rebid it and it's not been rebid," Pratt said after the meeting. She said she was also concerned that the city might use the contracts to work on a project to overhaul the city's phone system.
"There are other providers and it should be competitively bid," Pratt said.
Pratt has criticized purchases the information technology office made under a different Digicon contract. She filed a lawsuit in October accusing the administration of using an "underhanded, illegal technique" to bypass the competitive bidding process in purchasing goods from the company. Pratt has said she wants a $7.4 million project to overhaul the city's aging phone system awarded to IBM, which went through a bidding process overseen by her office.
The mayor's office has said that the technology purchases were "neither out of the ordinary nor in violation of law," citing an opinion by the city solicitor. But the administration also said in September it was expanding the number of IT staffing firms with which it contracts from two to as many as 50, "significantly reducing reliance on any single IT contractor."
Prior to the meeting, Pratt and Rawlings-Blake met one-on-one in a side room, though Pratt would not say what was discussed. At the meeting, Rawlings-Blake instructed her staff to answer a series of questions posed by Pratt about the details of the contracts.
"We're trying to get this project moving forward," Pratt said. "The mayor is receptive to meeting with me. Hopefully, we're making progress."
Chris Tonjes, the city's chief information officer, said Tuesday the contract extensions will buy the city time to move toward a more diverse staffing system. City officials said no new Digicon staffers have been hired in recent months, and seven have left city government. The technology office is evaluating bids from six vendors to replace those Digicon contractors, officials said.
Digicon did not respond to a request for comment.
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