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OC Legislature Special Committee Wraps Up Second Day of IT Allegations Testimony

Orange County Legislature chambers

GOSHEN – The Orange County legislative committee tasked with collecting information about a county IT contract with StarCIO has concluded its second day of testimony. Appearing before the committee on Monday were fellow legislators Ramos, Paduch, Tautel, and Anagnostakis, as well as Alicia D’Amico, the county’s director of operations, Harry Porr, the deputy county executive, and Rick Golden, the county attorney.

First to testify were the legislators who presented at a news conference at the government center in October. They indicated that they had no information beyond what was presented last month. Legislator Michael Paduch said he had heard about the anonymous letter over the weekend and was glad that the committee was transparent about receiving the correspondence. Testimony provided by Alicia D’Amico, the county’s director of operations, seemed to contradict last week’s testimony of Samantha Sweikata, the county’s commissioner of General Services and IT. In response to a question as to which county official actually made the selection of StartCIO as the vendor, D’Amico said, “At the end of the day, it was Commissioner Sweikata.” This contradicts earlier testimony from Sweikata that D’Amico selected StarCIO. D’Amico also contradicted the commissioner’s assertion that she negotiated the contract cost with StarCIO. D’Amico said it would have been Sweikata who negotiated the terms of the agreement. When asked if she was ever pressured or coerced into selecting StarCIO, D’Amico said she was not.

Deputy County Executive Harry Porr said that he wasn’t aware that the owner of StarCIO was the brother-in-law of county human resource commissioner Langdon Chapman when he signed the contract in January of 2023. Porr said he found out about the relationship shortly after signing the first contract and didn’t sign the two contract amendments because neither was presented to him for signature. The amendments were signed by D’Amico and County Executive Steve Neuhaus.

County Attorney Richard Golden told committee members that the contract and both amendments were all legal. Golden said that the agreements met all county ethics requirements and were in full compliance with state law and county policy. Golden also pointed out that there were not three contracts in place, but rather one contract and two amendments. He said that contract amendments are routine and that county policy does not require amendments to be competitively bid.

Many of Legislator Hines’ questions focused on StarCIO’s billing. Hines pointed out that StarCIO had a contract for $65,000, but had billed more than $130,000 before the first amendment was put in place. D’Amico and Porr couldn’t speak to the billing question, pointing to the department head as the approving official. Golden said he would have to review the billing before answering Hines’ question.

The meeting began with task force chairman Kevin Hines reporting that the committee received an anonymous four-page letter on Thursday of last week. Hines did not make the contents of the letter public but did say that copies were provided to the legislative council and the county attorney. County attorney Richard Golden called the letter “absolutely worthless” because it was unsigned with no indication as to who wrote it. All Hines would say of the letter is that it was filled with statements he regarded as opinions.

Source: Mid-Hudson News

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