Frederick County is suing Winchester Star over ruling over public security radio system

WINCHESTER Florida-based company L3Harris Technologies Inc. is suing the Frederick County Board of Directors, the county government and the county treasury officer Cheryl Shiffler over the board’s decision to award a contract to replace the county public safety radio system with EF Johnson, Texas.

L3Harris filed a lawsuit in the Frederick County Circuit Court on June 14, requesting an injunction. The company wants the court to overturn EF Johnson’s letter of intent and instead award L3Harris.

More than two years ago, Pennsylvania-based Mission Critical Partners evaluated the aging public safety radio system in the county and identified numerous issues, such as limited capacity, no nationwide spectrum, and a limited number of operating channels when the primary shipping channels are congested. Some parts of the system were installed more than 20 years ago.

Four vendors responded to the county’s call for proposals (RFP) to replace the system, including L3Harris. Mission Critical Partners helped develop the RFP and facilitated RFP assessment and vendor negotiations. In November, an internal working group of wireless system users known as the Communications Committee – including representatives from the sheriff’s office, fire department and emergency response center – recommended the board of directors to elect EF Johnson.

After months of debate, the board voted 4-3 in May to award the contract to EF Johnson. The contract is for up to $ 20,007,471 to purchase the radio system, with an additional $ 8.9 million over the next 20 years. Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr., Stonewall Supervisor Judith McCann-Slaughter, Opequon Supervisor Bob Wells and Shawnee Supervisor David Stegmaier voted for EF Johnson. Gainesboro Supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy, Red Bud District Supervisor Blaine Dunn, and Back Creek Supervisor Shawn Graber voted against.

At that meeting, Dunn said he wanted L3Harris back into the competition as he believed this could result in the county getting a better deal.

The lawsuit states that under the terms of the tender published in March 2020, the contract should be awarded to “the least responsive and responsible bidder”.

It goes on to say that L3Harris submitted its proposal in June 2020 and has “by far the lowest price” compared to the other companies – EF Johnson and Motorola Solutions. According to the lawsuit, the assessed prices for the base contract were $ 14.66 million for EF Johnson, $ 9.98 million for L3Harris, and $ 16-17 million for Motorola’s two proposals. Adding the total cost of ownership for 15 years, the price was $ 19.88 million for EF Johnson, $ 18.36 million for L3Harris, and $ 22-23 million for Motorola.

The lawsuit says the Communications Committee rated the proposals on a 100-point scale, but the tender documents failed to inform L3Harris that a numerical rating system would be used. EF Johnson got a score of 80, Motorola got 81 and 80, and L3Harris got 78 points.

L3Harris called the Virginia Public Procurement Act grading system “illegal” because the county had not disclosed it in the tender or in publicly available documents. The company adds that even if a numerical rating system were allowed, its application by the county would be “haphazard and haphazard”.

The board plans to hold a closed session tonight at the county government building to discuss the matter. It is on the agenda that the meeting includes a consultation with legal advisors and briefings by staff on the dispute “if such advice or a briefing in an open meeting would impair the negotiating or litigation attitude of the public body”.

In the closed meeting, the board of directors will also consult with a legal advisor on a specific legal matter relating to the procurement of a public safety radio system.

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