Family tie colored DA’s 2003 bidding process
Winning company’s employee is the brother-in-law of prosecutor who accepted bids on behalf of Martinez’s office
There was an unusual connection in 2003 between the man who submitted a bid on behalf of his company to District Attorney Susana Martinez’s office for development of a new case management system and the employee who accepted it.
Michael Beddo, the technology director for the winning company, Data Ventures, is the brother-in-law of Janetta Hicks, a former prosecutor in Martinez’s office who accepted the bids on behalf of the office. Beddo authored the company’s bid letter.
NMPolitics.net discovered no statutes that the situation clearly violated, and those involved say the deal was legal. Martinez said there was nothing improper about the situation because neither Hicks nor Beddo had a financial interest in the company, which is owned by Coca-Cola.
“It is inappropriate for someone with a financial interest in a contract to be involved in awarding it, or in the procurement process,” Martinez said.
But what about the appearance created by the family tie between Hicks and Beddo? Given the fact that Martinez has set herself up as the gubernatorial candidate with the instincts and courage to clean up corruption and put an end to conflicts of interest in Santa Fe, NMPolitics.net decided the situation was worth a closer look.
That’s especially true because this is the second situation involving Hicks and a potential conflict that has gained media attention during Martinez’s run for governor. As the Albuquerque Journal has reported (here, here and here), Martinez’s office purchased more than $60,000 in office supplies and equipment from a company owned by Hicks while she was working there.
Hicks is now a district attorney in Eastern New Mexico.
Those involved say situation was legal
The state procurement code prohibits a public employee from “directly or indirectly” participating in a procurement process “when the employee knows that the employee or any member of the employee’s immediate family has a financial interest in the business seeking or obtaining a contract.”
Those involved say Beddo and Hicks had no financial interest in the company.
Hicks wrote in an e-mail that her “only involvement in the procurement process was in gathering the proposals received.” She said she “did not participate in contract negotiations.” Martinez said the same thing.
Beddo hasn’t responded to a message sent by NMPolitics.net through Facebook, but Data Ventures provided a statement that says “everything about our response to the 2003 request for proposal from the Las Cruces District Attorney’s Office and our fulfillment of the contract resulting from it was legal and in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.”
The company said Data Ventures Managing Director Terry Montgomery, not Beddo, handled contract negotiations. It also said “no individual at Data Ventures” had any “personal gain” from the agreement.
The contract was for a statewide case management system that would allow district attorneys across New Mexico to access each others’ information for the first time. Martinez and others said the decision on which company to hire was made by the state’s district attorneys, who voted unanimously to give the contract to Data Ventures instead of the other bidder, Sigma 4 Inc. of Las Cruces.
Both Hicks and Kelly Kuenstler, the current head of the state’s Administrative Office of the District Attorneys (AODA), said that vote took place on Dec. 19, 2003. Kuenstler said her office was unable to locate minutes to show that the vote was held on that date.
Joyce Bustos, who ran AODA at the time of the Data Ventures contract, said she doesn’t think the state’s district attorneys were told when they voted to hire Data Ventures that Beddo was Hicks’ brother-in-law. Bustos said she wasn’t aware of the connection until recently.
Kuenstler said Martinez was aware at the time of the connection.
The new system was paid for by Martinez’s office with money from a federal grant.
Selecting Data Ventures
Both companies sent bids to Hicks on Dec. 1, 2003 in response to a Nov. 18, 2003 notice published in the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Kuenstler, who was Martinez’s office manager when Data Ventures was hired in 2003, said the DAs opted to hire Data Ventures because its bid was cheaper and because Sigma 4’s system “was an intelligence gathering system, not a case management system, so it actually wasn’t even responsive to our request.”
In its bid letter, Data Ventures proposed building the system for $80,000 and letting the state’s DAs retain the rights so there wouldn’t be recurring costs. The final cost of Sigma 4’s proposal isn’t clear in its bid letter, but Kuenstler said it amounted to more than $4 million.
In spite of what Data Venture’s initial bid letter states, Kuenstler said the company’s “original proposal” came in at $250,000. Invoices and payment vouchers indicate that the system ended up costing about twice that amount.
NMPolitics.net was not able to obtain any contract entered into between Martinez’s office or AODA and Data Ventures before the company started work on the system in late 2003 or early 2004. The Martinez campaign was unable to produce such a contract.
NMPolitics.net has filed a records request with Martinez’s office to see if a formal request will turn up something the campaign could not.
There is a contract between Data Ventures and AODA dated Aug. 7, 2006. Before that, Martinez’s office had been making payments, but at that time AODA took over payments.
The first invoice to Martinez’s office is dated Jan. 8, 2004 and states that it was for “work completed in through Dec. 15, 2003.” That could indicate that Data Ventures’ work started almost immediately after the company submitted its Dec. 1, 2003 bid – and before the DAs voted on Dec. 19, 2003 to hire Data Ventures.
However, it’s not clear when Data Ventures actually started its work. Records indicate that the DA’s office cancelled payment on the Jan. 8, 2004 invoice, which was for $12,825. The Martinez campaign gave no explanation for why that check was cancelled.
The next invoice, for $23,000, indicates that it was for work done in January 2004.
Sigma 4 wasn’t notified in writing that it didn’t receive the contract until almost a year later. The notification letter is dated Dec. 18, 2004.
The letter was sent by Kuenstler, who told NMPolitics.net that Sigma 4 “was notified by me via telephone” that it did not receive the contract shortly after the DAs made their decision. She said the company later requested written notification.
Repeated attempts to reach Sigma 4 President Stanley Sobczynski for this article were unsuccessful.
A big improvement
Before the Data Ventures system, the state DAs’ computer systems weren’t linked to each other – which made it difficult to obtain information about prior convictions and pending charges in other areas of the state against people they were prosecuting.
Bustos said her office had gone to the Legislature for years with a proposal to develop a new system that would link all the district attorney offices, but lawmakers didn’t provide the funding.
In 2003, Martinez’s office won a hefty federal grant, and she offered to spend some of the money on the new, statewide case management system, Bustos said. The other DAs agreed.
“We were just so happy to have Susana share with us,” Bustos said, adding that she can’t overstate how beneficial the new system was because of the new level of information sharing it allowed. Once the DAs were linked together under the new Data Ventures system, they were also able to connect with a system that allows information sharing with other law enforcement agencies.
The DAs still use the Data Ventures system today.
Beddo was very involved in the development of the case management system. Invoices indicate that he was one of two company employees who spent the most time working on it.
Hicks was also involved as a member of an IT workgroup put together by AODA. Documents indicate that she was one of the people reviewing the system for the DAs and requesting changes. Bustos said Hicks also trained others to use the system.
Like Bustos, the AODA’s IT director, Eddie Chavez, spoke highly of the system. He said the approximately $500,000 cost was a “pretty good bang for the buck.” Today, he said, comparable systems can cost between $1.5 million and $5 million.
The fact that the old system inhibited information sharing, Martinez said, “posed a significant threat to public safety, especially with defendants who moved from one jurisdiction to another, like those in the country illegally.”
She said New Mexico became the first state with a system that allowed DAs to track defendants’ case histories from any jurisdiction in the state.
7 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.
Leave a response
You must be logged in to post a comment.