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Technology, towers at issue in state radio system bid protest

Motorola’s bid for a statewide law enforcement radio system is based on an “unknown design,” one that “no one knows what it’s going to look like” and that it “may never be able to deliver,” an attorney for Harris Corp. told an administrative law judge Tuesday.

Furthermore, the state’s decision to go with Motorola is “based on an unspecified and unknown true price,” Holland & Knight attorney Karen Walker said — referring to a deal worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lawyers delivered opening statements in a bid protest before Administrative Law Judge J. Bruce Culpepper in Tallahassee.

The Melbourne-based Harris is challenging the Department of Management Services‘ (DMS) award to Motorola Solutions this March to take over the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System, or SLERS, which Harris had since September 2000 and lost.

The awarding of the new contract concluded almost three years of bureaucratic and legislative infighting, with some lawmakers — often benefiting from political contributions — backing one side over the other.

“This is not just any type of procurement,” Walker said in her opening. “This is not a procurement for office supplies (or) contract management services (or) affordable housing … This is for a system that thousands of law enforcement officers throughout the entire state of Florida will use.”

SLERS is “a single, unified digital radio network that meets the radio voice communications needs of state law enforcement officers and other participating agencies throughout the state,” according to the DMS website. “The current system serves over 20,500 radios in patrol cars, boats, motorcycles and aircraft throughout the state.”

Walker also raised the issue of radio towers and how their quantity and quality of service is paramount to officer and public safety.

But Motorola attorney W. Robert Vezina III later told Culpepper that Motorola’s superiority in communications technology essentially means the company can do more with less.

At a courtroom whiteboard, Vezina sketched out the general terms of the bids: Harris, with 190 towers or sites, offered to charge the state $978 million, while Motorola bid $688 million and has 144 towers or sites.

“The state knows what it’s buying; the state knows what it’s paying,” said Vezina, of the law firm of Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli.

And Joseph Goldstein, an attorney with the Shutts & Bowen firm who represents DMS, told Culpepper that among “the handful of providers in this industry, DMS got this right.”

Goldstein also faulted Harris for “never once” during the “countless hours” of the bidding process saying they had concerns about  the DMS negotiators understanding the technical terms of the deal.

“To go through the whole process … when they were face-to-face with these people” means they shouldn’t have a valid case now, Goldstein said. “These were high-level people,” he added, referring to DMS staff.

Witnesses were expected before Culpepper Tuesday afternoon, with the proceeding scheduled through the end of the week.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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