CONTRACT BREAKUP GETS UGLY

JAMES M. ODATO CAPITOL BUREAU
Section: Main,  Page: A3

Date: Monday, September 27, 2010

In the wake of the breakup of the biggest contract in state history, serious accusations against the Office for Technology have been hurled alleging mismanagement, waste and leaking of information to a competitor by state officials.


M/A-COM, awarded the $2 billion statewide wireless network contract in 2005, is alleging breach of agreements and is suing the state for at least $111 million. It also accuses OFT head Melodie Mayberry-Stewart of wanton mismanagement of the project, costing M/A-COM heavy additional startup costs and contributing to delays. The contract was dropped by the state Jan. 14, 2009, the day the Paterson administration took $50 million from an account set up by M/A-COM under the contract to allow the state to recoup costs if the parties discontinued the project.


M/A-COM accused Mayberry-Stewart of defamation, but that charge was dismissed by Court of Claims Judge Francis T. Collins. But accusations that a now-fired OFT official leaked confidential information to Motorola remains in the suit.


Tyco Electronics and M/A-COM's attorneys from the firm of Weil, Gotchall and Manges are saying the state changed the program as planned, a move that cost plenty. Also, "The termination of the contract was for convenience, not cause," the lawsuit says, noting the state was facing a huge budget shortfall at the time it ended the contract.


The state alleges it is out $275.9 million and wants to go back and get another $50 million in a letter of credit from M/A-COM. "That counterclaim is laughable," said M/A-COM lawyer Salvatore Romanello. "They're seeking $50 million for the loss of functionality of radios they never purchased." He said the company has taken about 12 depositions from current and former state officials -- including Mayberry-Stewart -- and is building an argument that Motorola played a role in the contract's termination, and that someone was fired for leaking information to the competitor. OFT spokeswoman Angela Liotta would not comment.


State not totally kosher


The Department of Agriculture and Markets is cutting back its dog licensing and farms products grading programs while cutting back its kosher enforcement division, and expects to lay off 20 people, according to state officials. Ag & Markets spokeswoman Jessica Ziehm would not confirm the information.


"There will be changes but there is nothing definite regarding layoffs," she said. "While we did originally target a total of 37 positions as possible layoffs ... we do not have a finalized plan."


Paterson official's free trip


Sam Natapoff, the Empire State Development Corp. executive with the dual role of serving Gov. David Paterson as an international trade adviser, said he took a trip to India paid for by the New York Bar Association. Asked how he could accept a freebie, he said the trip was cleared by counsel.


Walter Ayres, a spokesman for the Commission on Public Integrity, said the free ride for a public official from a registered lobbying entity "could be a problem; it depends on the circumstances." An association spokesman said Natapoff was a guest speaker for an international law panel assembled in India in March.


Reach Odato at 454-5083 or jodato@timesunion.com