AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — A company whose bid to provide police body cameras was rejected sued Austin, claiming the Texas city used an illegal, noncompetitive bidding process to award the $12 million contract to Taser International.
Utility Associates sued Austin and its City Manager Marc Ott on July 8 in Travis County Court.
Based in Decatur, Ga., Utility’s customers include the Atlanta Police Department and Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in San Antonio.
Austin solicited bids for provision of body-worn cameras for police in December 2015. The request for proposals said the city would use “competitive selection” to evaluate the bids.
Because the Texas Purchasing Act requires the city to “purchase goods and services that provide the best value for the state,” the city must use competitive bidding and have a procedure to resolve vendor protests.
The request for proposals contained mandatory technical requirements.
Utility claims the bid the city opened from Taser International on Jan. 15 “failed to meet mandatory Technical Requirements 1.1, 1.9, 1.10, 1.12, 2.2, 2.7 and 2.25.”
It claims the deficiencies in Taser’s bid included these shortcomings:
it did not include a mobile viewing device;
it was not capable of being managed with a single management console;
it was not capable of encrypting data from end to end in a manner that prohibits the service provider from accessing the video;
it was not capable of temporarily cacheing video before transmitting it to cloud storage;
it could not identify which user was wearing a given camera;
it did not include cameras capable of capturing still photographs;
and it did not include cameras with autofocus lens capability.
“As such, the Taser Bid was both (i) non-responsive to the RFP; and (ii) failed to – and still fails to – satisfy Taser’s obligation to ‘fully and timely provide all Deliverables described in the Solicitation’ from the City’s own Standard Purchase Terms and Conditions,” the complaint states.
The city also opened Utility’s bid on Jan. 15. Utility claims that its bid met all mandatory technical requirements, was the lowest price offered, and at $9.63 million was $3 million less than Taser’s bid.
Nonetheless, the city awarded the contract to Taser at its June 23 City Council meeting, as “a result of the illegal and impermissible ‘non-competitive bidding process,'” the complaint states.
Utility claims the city did not comply with its own policies during the testing phase, which requires that the “pilot/wear testing process should run exactly how it would if the vendor’s solution was selected.”
According to a transcript of the June 23 City Council meeting, it was revealed that during testing “some officers, instead of using the iPod that was provided to them as part of the camera package, chose to use their iPhone.”
Utility says in the lawsuit: “The city failed to address this deviation in the testing process, giving Taser a substantial advantage over all other offerors and instead, chose to proceed and award the RFP to Taser despite its non-responsive and non-compliant bid.”
City Council members said at the June 23 that only the Taser product had been tested, though the city had received 10 bids, according to the complaint.
After negotiations, the City Council agreed to pay Taser $12,201,226.
“Immediately after voting on the RFP, the city authorized the $5,029,200 purchase of ‘smartphones and wireless phone services to enhance the functionality of body worn cameras’ in order to make up for the deficiencies in the Taser bid,” the complaint states.
“(A)llowing Taser to attempt to cure some of these deficiencies by ‘combining’ it’s bid with a supposedly separate $5,029,200 smartphone order constitutes the city giving Taser a significant advantage in the bidding process.”
Utility filed two protests with the city.
In its May 27 protest letter, Utility said: “The evaluation of bids for RFP EAD0124 should have included this new proposed iPhone contract as part of the Taser International bid. Since the RFP EAD0124 bid evaluation did not include the additional $5M iPhone contract, and no meaningful evaluation of video redaction capabilities was performed, the RFP EAD0124 bid evaluation and award to Taser International was fundamentally flawed and deficient. …
“On any fair and disciplined RFP analysis basis, this new de facto Taser contract price of $17.2 million for the scope of work included in RFP EAD0124 compared to the Utility bid of $9.6M could easily result in Utility winning the award on a best value basis for Austin taxpayers.”
A city spokesman said Austin has not received the lawsuit but that “we are prepared to defend the city and its purchasing process.”
Utility wants the contract with Taser voided and/or an injunction to stop Austin from executing it.
It is represented by Peter Barlow with Smith Gambrell & Russell in Austin.
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