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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Attorneys argue about dismissal of Paragon lawsuit

Attorneys for the state and a computer consulting company argued Thursday that the lawsuit against their clients should be dismissed because a legislative panel does not have the authority to contest the multi-million-dollar deal after it was signed.
Tyrone Means, attorney for the legislative contract review committee, argued that Gov. Bob Riley did not have the authority to sign the contract with Paragon Source LLC because it was not the only company that could provide the work.
"He can't approve a contract that should have been competitively bid," Means said.
State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, and other members of the contract review committee filed suit against Riley, Acting Finance Director Bill Newton and officials with Paragon trying to stop an amended contract that brought the total to almost $13 million over five years.
Kevin Newsom, the attorney representing Riley, argued that the contract review committee had 45 days to review the contract and ask questions, stamped the document, and delivered it to the administration. The committee's jurisdiction ended there and it is trying to essentially veto the contract after it was signed, which Newsom said is a violation of the separation of powers.
"They are trying to get in the court house what they can’t get in the State House," he said.
Means said they have discovered other vendors who said they could have provided the work or at least wanted to bid on it.
He also referred repeatedly to the document that declares Paragon as a "sole source provider," indicating no other entity could provide the work.
"We believe it is not a sole source contract — never has been from the beginning," Means said.
The document has no date on it, has no time stamp on it and was not included in the hundreds of pages of documents the contract review committee received after it subpoenaed records this fall from Paragon and the state.
Means said they did not receive the document until early December when the administration filed to dismiss the lawsuit. The document also references the Paragon contract ending on Sept. 30.
He believes the document was created after questions came up with Paragon.
"Who knows when this was done," Means said.
Newton said Paragon personnel have worked on the state’s computer system since it was implemented almost 20 years ago and have the institutional knowledge to work on the system.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tom King is presiding over the case after Montgomery County judges recused themselves.
King did not indicate when he would rule on the motion to dismiss. He has set the next court date for Jan. 7, but indicated that could be delayed because of the holidays.
Holmes and his fellow lawmakers are not seeking damages. They want to void the contract.
The committee cannot stop a contract, but can hold it up for 45 days.
Newsom said the lawsuit is moot because the committee filed it after the contract was signed and the committee no longer has any jurisdiction.
He also questioned whether Holmes was filing the lawsuit as a public official or a taxpayer.
When asked after the hearing whether he filed as a legislator or taxpayer, Holmes responded "both."
Newsom said the taxpayers do not need to pay for Holmes' attorneys if he is suing as a citizen.
Some members of Riley's administration have also pointed out that Holmes and the committee hired Means on a no-bid contract. The committee approved a contract of up to $200,000 with Means.
Legislators have questioned Paragon, which does not have a Web site or a listed phone number, receiving such a large contract from the state.
Newton, Riley and others have said no one has ever questioned the work performed by the company, which was hired to help the state map out an overhaul of the computer system used for financial functions such as payroll and purchasing.
Paragon has become the lightning rod for a fight between the Republican administration and Democratic lawmakers over no-bid contracts.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I'm sure this committee bid out their legal representation, right? I'm sure that Tyrone Means was the lowest bidder.

December 17, 2009 at 12:57 PM  

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