Ethics Board OKs sole-source contract

HILO —The Board of Ethics on Tuesday cleared a retired county employee to hold a county contract overseeing a project replacing the county’s problematic online building permit application system.

Sheila Cadaos retired from her position in the county Department of Information Technology shortly before being granted a one-year employment contract for $6,073 monthly, working 30 hours a week, while keeping her county benefits. The contract names Cadaos project manager for the Energov system, a $2.3 million countywide planning and permitting system.

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The current system has had several hiccups, including being down for more than a week in April, putting all county building permit applications on hold until it could be fixed.

The complaint was filed by Layne Novak, a network administrator in the IT Department. Novak questioned how Cadaos could get a sole-source contract after working on the project as an employee. She also questioned why Cadaos continued to get full benefits as a county employee.

“I still don’t understand why this … couldn’t go out for competitive recruitment,” Novak told the Ethics Board.

She said several employees in the IT Department qualified for the position.

The Energov contract, with the Plano, Texas-based Tyler Technologies Inc., began Sept. 29, 2016. Novak claims the project is 700 hours and $130,000 over budget. The software isn’t expected to launch until 2020.

The Board of Ethics voted unanimously that there was not enough evidence to find an ethics violation, although they cautioned the administration about improperly using an exemption in state procurement code that allows employment contracts for special and unique projects that cannot be recruited through normal civil service channels.

“We should say something about sole-source contracts, added board member Nan Sumner-Mack.” We need to caution that sole-source contracts have a sufficient and documented rationale with detail.”

The board at its last meeting had voted against finding no ethics violation, saying more information was needed. That was provided Tuesday, with Managing Director Wil Okabe, IT Director Jules Ung and Human Resources Director Bill Brilhante explaining the contract and the county’s rationale.

Ung told the board Tyler Technologies’ claim the project is over budget and staff hours is a negotiable item and doesn’t mean the claim is true.

“That’s currently in dispute,” Ung said. “With every major project … project management is so critical because you will run into disputes.”

Cadaos helped write the request for proposals for the project and was on the committee selecting the winning vendor afterward, Ung said. It made sense for her to continue oversight, she said.

Brilhante said the county currently holds 14 employment contracts of the type being discussed. Three of the contract holders, including Cadaos, previously worked for the county, he said.

“It’s not widespread, it’s not rampant,” Brilhante said. “The reason we have these contracts … when we lose (long-term employees), we lose that knowledge base, we lose that experience.”

He called Cadaos’ retirement and subsequent contract opportunity, “fortuitous.”

“She agreed to take a cut in pay .. from full-time to three-quarters time,” Brilhante said. “In no way were there any promises … special privileges. … It was just a win-win for the county and Ms. Cadaos.”

Board member Rick Robinson said he had concerns at the prior meeting that “this contract was a gift to Ms. Cadaos.”

“We’re hearing this is not a gift, but she’s essential to the project going forward,” Robinson said.

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Sumner-Mack praised Novak for coming forward to question a contract that didn’t look quite right.

“I hope if there is any retaliation then I hope you will report it immediately,” Sumner-Mack said. “That is a violation of the code of ethics.”