Monday, November 1, 2010

Alert: Santa Clara County Files for Investigation by Commerce IG of $50 Million BayWEB Broadband Stimulus Grant

Inspector General has Federal Administrative, Civil, and Criminal Investigative Power 11/01/2010 San Francisco - In the first public filing of its kind under the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program of the Obama Administration, the County Executive of Santa Clara County, California today filed an official request for a federal investigation of the most controversial award under the program, the $ 50 million BayWEB public safety wireless project.

Todd J. Zinser, Inspector General,
 U.S. Department of Commerce
The filing, issued today by County Executive Dr. Jeffrey Smith, was made to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. As we reported in April, Inspector General Todd J. Zinser has publicly questioned if the agency that issued broadband stimulus grants within Commerce, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), has correctly deployed sufficient staff and other resources to properly screen awards under the program. 

Zinser, a well respected career federal manager, holds the power under federal law to conduct  administrative, civil, and/or criminal investigations for any matters involving the employees or programs of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Project, awarded in August to Motorola, Inc. (NYSE: MOT), was in the first small group to be issued federal funding for an advanced emergency communications system using the 700 MHz spectrum recently licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Today's filing points to the activities of a governmental agency called the Bay Area Urban Security Initiative (UASI), as it heavily questions the process engaged in by the agency which resulted in the award to the firm. 

UASI is staffed exclusively by employees of the City and County of San Francisco, although the majority of the agency is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The City acts as UASI's fiscal agent and primary legal counsel. UASI's chief, Executive Director Laura Phillips, was appointed Director of the City's Department of Emergency Management (DEM) in 2006.  In 2008 Ms. Phillips was shifted to the UASI role. The present Acting Director of DEM, Ms. Vicki Hennessy, serves as the Chairperson of the UASI Approval Authority, the governing body of the agency., which has been researching and reporting on this story over the past month, will update our information on this important matter with statements from the relevant parties, and other follow-on information.

Links to copies of all filed documents in the request by Santa Clara County:
BayWeb Project 10 - BTOP Post Award Appeals & Reviews III - OIG, U.S. Dept. of Commerce

Letter to Todd Zinser Inspector General

The BayWEB Examination is our online resource about the project, with links to the most extensive public collection of documents available - many released under federal and state public records filings - and to all updated reporting on the issue.
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