City moves to extend Digicon staffing contract

Baltimore officials plan Wednesday to extend the contract of two firms that provide many of the city's information technology workers, saying they need 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 is moving to extend 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, is expected to approve the extensions at its meeting Wednesday. Comptroller Joan M. Pratt says she will vote no.

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.

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."

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. "This extension is to give us enough time to complete the process," Tonjes said.

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.

In September, a report from the city's inspector general found that two key managers charged with implementing a pilot system for phones were contractors with Digicon. One of them was allowed to commit city resources "in a way that financially benefited Digicon," the report said. A Digicon lawyer has said the company's relationship with that employee was "virtually nonexistent."

Digicon did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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