Over the weekend, Scripps reporter Matt Dixon tuned into one of the biggest behind-the-scenes battles this session few other outlets are even talking about – the fight to replace Florida’s aging statewide, law enforcement radio system. You will note that SPB has covered the issue since it first began back in February and more recently, last week.
But Dixon’s story also lets one the worst kept secrets in Tallahassee fly … a tidbit regarding the process that is as revealing of Harris’ government relations strategy.
Harris says that it has not pushed the state to give it a no-bid contract extension past 2021, but state Sen. Alan Hays, the Umatilla Republican who oversees the budget containing funding for the program, said the company has approached him with the idea.
What has gone unreported is that once Harris gets the nod to “refresh” the radio system there will be no need for anything to go out for a competitive bid.
According to a Harris spokesperson, “Harris believes it can provide law enforcement with refreshed technology much sooner than 2021.”
This translated means that, as Sen. Hays notes, Harris is doing everything it can to extend the current contract and put an end to the need for an open and competitive procurement, which has been requested by the governor, the House and Senate, and most notably, a task force of the state’s top law enforcement officers who have studied the issue.
According to documents obtained by SPB, Harris has been putting the full-court press on legislators and state agency officials to ensure the contract isn’t put out for bid.
In one letter sent to then-DMS Secretary Craig Nichols, a Harris executive offers up a “migration strategy” to move to the new system the state is already planning upgrade. This would be accomplished by selling the state radios that can work with the new system once it gets built. The state isn’t asking for these radios, so only time will tell if Harris gets its wish.
After the shellacking Gov. Scott’s office (rightfully) has taken over its mismanagement of FDLE Commissioner Gerry Bailey’s ousting, the last thing the Scott administration should do is go against the wishes of the state’s police radio task force and its radio users.