Commissioner blasts West Palm Beach’s handling of OpenSky police radio system9-1-1 in the News, Tech | Caitlin | June 3, 2011 at 11:08 am
WEST PALM BEACH, FL — Commissioner Bill Moss blasted the city’s handling of the OpenSky police radio system on Tuesday, saying the administration blatantly withheld key information from commissioners.
Last week, after learning in a Palm Beach Post investigative report that his request in April 2010 for an “honest and credible evaluation,” on OpenSky had been written by the city’s technical team but never provided to the commissioners, Moss called it “the perfect scenario for the (county’s) Inspector General to evaluate.”
City Administrator Ed Mitchell said last week that he knew about the report, but never read it or passed it along to the commission. The report stated that Mitchell was the one who ordered it.
“When we make a request it’s not a request – we need it to do our job,” said Moss before Tuesday’s commission meeting. “To withhold information from us so we can’t do a credible job is an offense that cannot be tolerated. How many other topics have we made a request that they have withheld from us? Do we have to do a public records request to get information?”
West Palm Beach has been planning to go on the controversial OpenSky digital radio system since 1999, when it was considered cutting-edge technology and all the municipalities in the county entered into a consortium to use the system.
Twelve years later, only six cities remain in the consortium. After already spending $3.6 million to install equipment and about $465,000 to maintain it, West Palm Beach needs final commission approval to purchase 400 radios for $1.6 million.
Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter, Juno Beach and Jupiter are currently using OpenSky, while the rest of the county uses Motorola. While leaders from those cities using OpenSky have praised the system, OpenSky has been plagued with problems across the country. In Palm Beach Gardens last week, the system failed while a stabbing suspect was briefly on the loose.
Ernie Carr, a Palm Beach Gardens police colonel overseeing the OpenSky system, has said the system is set to be operational in West Palm Beach in September. But on Tuesday, Mayor Jeri Muoio said the city is in no rush to make a final decision.
“Motorola works just fine right now and I don’t feel any pressure to move forward on a decision about OpenSky,” Muoio said.
Muoio said the city is planning a special commission meeting with both supporters and opponents of OpenSky, to be held in either June or July.
Lee Menke, the city’s systems support manager, was removed from OpenSky discussions by Police Chief Delsa Bush after writing the critical report. Bush took control of the project and has been advocate of OpenSky.
“It’s almost like (the consortium is) holding us hostage until they can get it until where they spent so much money it would be impossible to turn back,” Moss said.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Sylvia Moffett said she was “told a lot of things that I thought made sense,” by Chief Bush about OpenSky when she was appointed to the commission in April.
“Then I dug deeper,” said Moffett, who replaced OpenSky critic Molly Douglas on the commission. “I’m glad to know that the public is now learning about this so they can understand what OpenSky is, because I didn’t know what OpenSky was before I joined the commission.”
During Tuesday’s public comment, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy William McCray called the system unproven. McCray is a former West Palm Beach police officer who won a racial discrimination suit against the city and has been an ardent critic of the city.
“Citizens can’t expect police protection when it has leadership more concerned over spending millions of dollars on an unproven radio system than protecting its citizens,” McCray said.