City Solicitor George Nilson said that although the city comptroller has traditionally overseen phone contracts, there was no legal reason that the mayor's office could not also be involved. The comptroller's office took over telephone contracts in 1949, but the city charter does not dictate that the comptroller supervise such contracts, he said.
"I've looked at the issue," said Nilson. "The comptroller does not possess charter authority, exclusive or otherwise, over the city's telephones."
O'Doherty said the administration believes it can save money and increase efficiencies by having one agency manage the computer and VOIP systems, effectively cutting out Pratt's agency.
Pratt said she requested information from the mayor's office to find out how many phones were purchased and where they were installed prior to the Board of Estimates meeting. She said she asked to meet with the mayor about the issue but was ignored.
Rawlings-Blake remained calm during the accusations leveled at the Board of Estimates meeting and sipped a Starbucks coffee.
"I'm very proud of the work [the mayor's Office of Information Technology] has done, saving taxpayers money," Rawlings-Blake said.
"They're not saving money," Pratt responded.
After the meeting, Pratt refused to make additional comments or provide documentation to support her claims, because she said the mayor had agreed to meet with her. Neither did the mayor's offer provide documents to support claims. As of Thursday afternoon, Pratt's office said that meeting had not yet happened.
The clash over the video phones was the second conflict between Rawlings-Blake and Pratt in a week.
On Tuesday, the mayor's office circulated a letter she sent to Pratt that criticized the comptroller's office for allowing six auditor positions to remain unfilled after Rawlings-Blake funded them. Pratt responded in a three-page letter defending her agency.
"Your letter suggests that the Department of Audits has not been diligent in its efforts to recruit and hire auditor staff," Pratt wrote. "That is incorrect."