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Emails in inspector general's report depict 'clandestine' effort to install new phone system

For months, The Baltimore Sun has sought to inspect the emails of former Chief Technology Officer Rico J. Singleton — who resigned in February after an audit detailed ethical violations in New York — but the city rebuffed those public information requests.

With the release of a city inspector general's investigative report that detailed possible conflicts of interest and wasteful practices in the Mayor's Office of Information Technology, emails from Singleton and others were made public. They show a concerted effort to cut out Comptroller Joan M. Pratt's office, which has traditionally controlled the phone system, and to mislead Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young. The emails contained in David N. McClintock's report depict administrators in the mayor's technology office eager to keep their effort to upgrade city phones secret.

One email describes the effort as "clandestine." Another lashes out at Verizon representatives for "running their mouth" about the overhaul. Another shows a denial that the overhaul even existed.

Singleton and former Deputy Mayor Christopher Thomaskutty were attempting to modernize the city's aging phone system and convert to VoIP phones, which are considered more efficient. At the same time, Pratt's office was soliciting bids for the same type of project, under a process approved in the city's budget documents. The IG's report states that this dysfunction and duplication of efforts wasted city resources.

Here are some excerpts from the emails:

•"You may attend if your schedule permits just to listen and observe. Do not commit to anything ... and do not offer input on how they can integrate. Just collect information." (Singleton, to an unidentified employee planning to attend the comptroller's office's "kick-off" meeting about a new voicemail system.)

•"I've heard rumor that you have been enlisted to establish a MOIT VoIP in a somewhat clandestine manner." (Both the sender and recipient were redacted from the report.)

•"I need you to advise on how to handle and prevent this debacle from occurring. Baltimore will be a laughing stock." (Singleton, to an unknown recipient, referring to Pratt's office requesting bids for a new phone system.)

• "We do not have a pilot project underway and I do not have a cost-saving analysis." (A deputy mayor – identified by city officials as Thomaskutty – telling Singleton what he should tell Young's office.)

•"You don't appreciate them monkeying with your already constrained budget and sharing details of private conversations with other branches of gov't." (Thomaskutty telling Singleton what he should tell Verizon.)

Singleton could not be reached to comment.

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