Legislators irked over ‘gag order’

by Carol Thompson

Some Oswego County Legislators are angered over an e-mail message they received from County Administrator Phil Church in regard to the pending award of a contract for data imaging services for the office of the County Clerk.

During the July 25 meeting of the legislature’s Community and Consumer Affairs Committee, legislators voted to award the contract to Info Quick Solutions, Inc. of Liverpool — despite the company being one of the most costly and having the lowest score given by a panel appointed to review the five bidding vendors.

The committee first received the vendor information blindly with letters replacing company names. Prior to the names being revealed to legislators, County Clerk George Williams said he wanted IQS to receive the contract. He praised the service of IQS and referred to them as “our company.”

When asked who he recommended, Williams responded, “I’ll recommend IQS.”

Legislator Amy Tresidder asked if Williams violated the communication clause, which restricted speaking about the companies. The response was that he had not violated the clause.

The following day, legislators received communication from Church stating, “Yesterday the Community and Consumer Affairs Committee made a recommendation to the County Legislature regarding awarding the text and image management contract. The full County Legislature is scheduled to take up the matter August 9 and make a final decision.”

It continues, “In the meantime, the communications and contact rules of the RFP regarding contacts between legislators, officials, employees vendors, and the press remain in effect until an award is made by the Legislature.”

Some legislators became irritated by the message, questioning how they were to speak to their constituents about the contract award and questioning why, if the matter was discussed at a public meeting, the “gag order” was necessary.

“Is this some kind of joke?” Legislator Doug Malone responded to Church.

Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler and legislators Amy Tresidder Dan Farfaglia responded to Church as did at least one Republican legislator, all questioning Church’s message.

Church responded the following day to all legislators stating, “My e-mail yesterday was intended simply to be helpful – a reminder that although a public recommendation has been made by an official body, a window of time still exists during which lobbying or improper influence and statements could still occur, and we have the means to help us all avoid such situations.”

Church added that the restrictions are not a “gag order.”

“Please remember that the communication and contact rules were put in place to help legislators and county officials avoid being placed in situations by vendors or others that could be interpreted later as collusive, pre-judgmental, or creating an improper influence on the procurement,” he wrote.

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