'How the hell is this still going on?' Neuhaus says he questioned controversial no-bid IT contract
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus told a four-member task force Tuesday that a six-figure contract given to the brother-in-law of the county's Human Resources commissioner has gotten out of control, though Neuhaus did not take issue with the relationship.
The task force was created to investigate the contract awarded to Isaac Sacolick of StarCIO for IT security services.
Sacolick was recommended for the job by his brother-in-law, HR Commissioner Langdon Chapman.
The contract began in January as a two-month agreement worth $65,000 for Sacolick to assess the county's outdated, vulnerable IT security system.
The contract was renewed several times, costing the county more than $400,000.
"I was very vocal in my office," Neuhaus, a Republican, said of a meeting in August shortly after he learned of the ballooning contract. "I was telling other departments, 'How the hell is this still going on, and why are these numbers so high?'"
Neuhaus said the county's operations director told him they had to keep renewing the contract because the county has struggled to keep an IT security manager on staff due to low salaries.
"That's what forced -- I think -- some of these guys to rely on outside help," Neuhaus said.
Democratic State Sen. James Skoufis and four Democratic county legislators are calling for Chapman to resign.
Chapman fired back with a rant last week before the board, attacking Skoufis and each of the four legislators by name.
"That's what you do when you have no record to run on," Chapman said of Skoufis's actions. "You lie instead."
County Attorney Richard Golden said Monday that per county policy, contracts initially under $100,000 can be renewed without a competitive bidding process, even if the renewals lead to costs well above $100,000.
He said the county department heads followed county ethics policy, county procurement policy and state law.
Golden told the task force that executive staff would be open to discussions on potential changes to county policies to prevent ballooning no-bid contracts and corruption.
Neuhaus told News 12 after Tuesday's meeting he does not see a problem with Chapman's relative doing business with the county as long as policy is followed.
He said he has already hired a new IT director he describes as a "rock star," and that director will receive whatever resources he needs.
"At the end of the day, the county needed to improve the way that it does IT services by creating a separate department," he said, "and that's what we've been doing."
An aide for Skoufis said Tuesday that the state senator wrote to the task force members, offering to appear before them.
The task force chairman said questioning Skoufis was not necessary, because all members have a clear idea of the senator's views on the contract.
Neuhaus's testimony completes the interview process, Republican task force chairman Kevin Hines said.
The task force will now work on a report of their findings. The members will discuss a draft version of the report at a meeting on Dec. 11. It may include suggestions for policy changes.
Task force turns attention to high-level Orange County legislators in probe of controversial contract
Orange County legislature creates task force to investigate so-called sweetheart contract for top official’s brother-in-law