OWEGO -- Allegations have been put forth against Tioga County that assert misconduct in the request for proposal (RFP) process for tax collection software.

In a letter addressed to county Treasurer James McFadden, Systems East President James L. Buttino said "we have concerns over the recent events relating to (three proposals). Simply stated, it appears to us that the chronology indicates that there was a preferred contractor. The events surrounding the RFP process were orchestrated to ensure an outcome consistent with that preference."

"We recognize the gravity of this observation, and we do not set it forth lightly," Buttino continued. "We closely examined each of the three RFPs, the repeated rejection of contractor bid submissions and the county's explicit refinements in the RFP specifications."

"Those refinements not only indicated the alleged preference, but also were clearly developed to exclude Systems East," Buttino added.

The letter cites a "clear violation" of New York State General Municipal Law, Article 5-A, Sections 100-a and 103(7).

Section 100-a establishes the assurance that "the prudent and economical use of public moneys for the benefit of all inhabitants of the state and to facilitate the acquisition of facilities and commodities of maximum quality at the lowest possible cost."

"As the well-established leader in New York state real property tax collection and delinquency enforcement, it appears clear that the modification in the third round of bid specifications was designed to exclude our firm from the candidate list," the letter states. "Further, (state) law also mandates that where a public bid or offer is sought, the lowest credible bidder shall be selected."

"We were certainly a credible bidder, and our price was far less than that of the bidder which was awarded the contract," Buttino continued.

As a result, the company set forth a number of acceptable remedies. Among them, to vacate the resolution approved at the legislature's Nov. 14, 2017 session and void the contract to the awardee, Allen Tunnel, at a cost of $290,340.

Additionally, the company president asserts that the situation should be "fully investigated by the proper authorities, and where it is found that the law has been violated, criminal charges should be levied against the perpetrators."

Included with the letter that alleges wrongdoing, Buttino provided a five-page chronology of events which he feels supports the allegations levied against the county.

The first supportive criteria comes from June 21, where Buttino notes that Systems East, along with six other companies, were copied on an email to receive the RFP. Buttino asserted that Allen Tunnel Corporation was not included in the recipient list.

On that date, Buttino said bids submitted by Systems East, MUNIS/Tyler, and Hamer Enterprises were opened at a public session.

Allegation documents note that there was a re-bidding of the proposals in August, which fielded four proposal submissions.

County documents do not indicate a reason for the re-bidding process.

By October, Buttino asserts that four companies had presented demonstrations of their proposed solutions -- Tyler, Hamer, BAS, and Systems East.

"To date, the Allen Tunnel Corporation has not been represented in any aspect of this bid process or product demonstrations," allegation documents said.

On Oct. 27, Buttino said Systems East received a rejection letter which stated, in part, "We appreciate your team's time and efforts in preparing and submitting your proposal. After careful consideration, the county of Tioga has rejected all bids submitted under RFB 2017-002 reflected in the accompanying notice."

Three days later, Buttino notes that the third round of bids was announced on the county website, and no notification was provided to Systems East "even though Systems East was one of the only two companies to survive the demonstrations from the second-round submissions."

"Based on our review of the submission by Allen Tunnel Corporation provided by Tioga County in response to a FOIL request, their bid should have been rejected, as there were no signatures present on the statement of non-collutin, cost proposal or the bid certification," Buttino explained.

"In addition, requirements for a projcet plan and resumes for participating employees were not included," Buttino added. "As such, the submission is null and void."

Additionally, Buttino included an excerpt from Nov. 7, 2017 county information technology committee meaning minutes, quoting: "the RFPs were opened on Monday, Nov. 6. Allen Tunnel Corp. was awarded the bid. Mr. Camin stated that he had spoken to other information technology directors that have this software."

Documents then provide a note which states "the bid opening was Nov. 6 and then awarded to Allen Tunnel was on Nov. 7. Clearly, the decision to award Allen Tunnel was made outside the RFP process and in violation of New York State General Municipal Law."

Asked about the allegations, county Legislative Chair Martha Sauerbrey said she had yet to receive the letter, but noted that any questions would be best answered by the county's attorney, Peter DeWind.

DeWind noted Thursday that he had just received the documents with the afternoon mail.

"We are still reviewing their letter and, as it appears to concern a potential claim, there isn't much I can say at this early stage," DeWind said. "I would say that we certainly disagree with System East's allegations."

County Treasurer James McFadden could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The above-cited documents can be found on the Morning Times website, under the "data center" tab.

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