Report finds Orange County IT contract was awarded improperly but no criminality

Last October, several members of the county Board of Legislators and state Sen. James Skoufis raised ethics questions about the contract.

Jonathan Gordon

Feb 21, 2024, 11:11 PM

Updated 51 days ago

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A report released by a special Orange County legislative committee investigating a no-bid contract given to an IT company owned by the brother-in-law of a county employee found the contract was awarded improperly but found no evidence of unethical behavior.
"This committee found no evidence of fraud, corruption, or criminality relative to the procurement of the StarCIO contract and really what we mean there is improper procurement is not a crime, it's a mistake," Republican Orange County Legislator Kevin Hines said.
Last October, several members of the county Board of Legislators and state Sen. James Skoufis raised ethics questions about the contract.
According to their documents, the county first agreed to a contract with StarCIO in January 2023 for information and technology services. The initial contract was for $65,000 and expired after eight weeks but was quietly renewed several times. The county entered two additional contracts with StarCIO, totaling more than $800,000, according to the group.
Questions were raised when it was discovered that StarCIO owner, Isaac Sacolick, is the brother-in-law of Orange County Human Resources Commissioner Langdon Chapman.
"The contract was procured improperly and there's no gray area there. This contract should not have happened," Skoufis said.
Both Sacolick and Orange County Attorney Richard Golden have previously denied any wrongdoing.
When the issue first came forward, Golden told News 12 the contract was exempt from the public bidding process due to the nature of the services provided and it was not illegal for the county to hire companies with family ties as long as the related person is not involved in selecting the company. Golden said Chapman was not involved in this process.
The report found the county failed to meet the bidding requirements before awarding the contract but did not agree that Chapman was involved in the negotiations or securing the contract.
Skoufis, who chairs the Senate Investigations Committee, called for the investigation claiming the contract was intentionally set to a low dollar amount to not raise suspicions and that it was given to StarCIO because Sacolick's home was in foreclosure.
Sacolick previously denied having any money troubles and the report also found that allegation not to be true.
Other findings included the county's record keeping was not in line with the contract bid procurement policy, StarCIO did not engage in any wrongdoing, and that all legislators involved in the initial October 2023 press conference failed to act responsibly.
The report also outlined several recommendations including redrafting the county procurement policy and ensuring proper justification is included in any contract extensions.
The true determination of whether there was any criminality will come once the FBI closes its investigation that was launched earlier this year into Orange County's contract procurement policies. That investigation is still ongoing.
County Attorney Golden sent a statement to News 12 that reads: "The Legislature’s Special Committee confirmed what he previously stated that there is no corruption, fraud or criminality related to IT Consultant StarCIO’s contract with the County. Many of the Committee’s recommendations for improvements to the County’s procurement and contract administration policies are already underway. The County will continue to work to ensure an efficient and effective government for Orange County’s residents."
An attorney representing Sacolick and StarCIO said in a statement: "A bi-partisan committee of the Legislature has confirmed that StarCIO and Isaac Sacolick met and exceeded expectations in their performance, to the benefit of Orange County. The committee found that StarCIO and Mr. Sacolick did absolutely nothing wrong. The committee completely rejected the false accusations made against StarCIO and Mr. Sacolick as a fabricated conspiracy and found that the legislators who made the false accusations failed to act responsibly.We are pleased that the committee has rightly lauded StarCIO and Mr. Sacolick, who is a highly regarded and extremely effective IT professional, and rightly rejected the false accusations against them. Indeed Senator Skoufis, after we directed him to cease and desist, took down his defamatory press conference video from social media. We have referred Mr. Skoufis’s tortious conduct to the New York State Senate and understand that it is under review."


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