San Jose was excited when the news of a $50 million public safety telecommunications project for the Bay Area was announced. The project was intended to create a broadband network linking police, firefighters, and rescue workers throughout the Bay Area in the event of a major emergency, such as an earthquake or terrorist attack. The city is now challenging the project, saying that there may have been improprieties and conflicts of interest in the selection of a provider and its exclusion from the project’s initial stage.

Originally, San Jose was scheduled to be part of the project’s initial stages, but it was then decided to focus on Santa Clara and Sunnyvale instead. Mayor Chuck Reed is disturbed by the decision, considering that San Jose is the Bay Area’s largest city. The Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative, which is responsible for the proposal, responded to the mayor’s concerns by stating that the city had declined to participate in “vital parts of the proposals.”

Of greater concern to the mayor is the possibility that the administration of the Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative may have a conflict of interest in the selection of the company providing the service. Both Reed and Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith. They point out that Laura Smith, who now serves as Executive Director of the Initiative, spent two years as a funding and project manager for Motorola, specializing in government relations.  They even cite a letter from Smith, saying that she “orchestrated” the deal with Motorola.

Smith and Reed also argue that several other high-ranked staff members of the Initiative have an employment history with Motorola. Smith, however, is of special concern, because she also worked with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, and Sunnyvale was one of two cities in Santa Clara County selected to participate in the early stages of the project.

The Initiative responded to the charges, saying that Smith did not advocate for Motorola and was not involved in the contract negotiations with the company, leading to the $50 million deal. Reed, in turn, has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about Motorola’s bid in the procurement process.
Read More at The Mercury News.