What do you do when you are asked to carry the water for a colleague running for the Florida Senate, who is looking to curry favor with a large business in his district by requesting funding for a line item nobody asked for, the state doesn’t need, and the Senate vehemently opposes?
You do what Rep. Jeanette Núñez has been doing for Rep. Ritch Workman, which is to stick to a script that on the surface sounds believable, but is problematic on several fronts. You have to give her credit: Her commitment to the sound byte that “DMS vetted” Harris Corp.’s sales pitch for $7 million in new radios is a discipline that even Marco Rubio would admire.
As it turns out, DMS never requested those radios. And neither did the Department of Financial Services. Nor the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Nor any other agency for that matter.
Harris has made its attempt to short-circuit the looming mega-procurement to build the next-generation State Law Enforcement Radio System as regular as the Sine Die Sausage or even Ron Book’s late night laps in the Fourth-Floor Rotunda. In 2014, Harris’ lobbying team attempted to prevent a $1 million line item to fund a business case that is required before the contract is competitively bid.
Last year, Harris asked the state to buy $42 million worth of new Project 25 radios in exchange for bypassing the competitive procurement and letting Harris build the system “for free.” Now, as reported by FloridaPolitics.com, Harris is back once again seeking an end-around to competing on a level playing field in the upcoming state contract, which has not been bid since 2000.
Harris has nearly exhausted every attempt to delay the procurement, which is set to begin as early as July 1. Instead of waiting until the late hour of budget conference like last year, this year Harris made sure its $7 million request for new radios appeared when Núñez first presented the House General Government Operations budget in committee.
The request first saw the light of day under the watchful eye of Rep. Charles Van Zant. Van Zant questioned the line item in early February, and Núñez responded that it had been “vetted” by both DMS and the SLERS Joint Task Force. In a moment of courage, Van Zant doubled down, called Núñez’s bluff and in a letter asked the chairman of the SLERS Joint Task whether it was true.
In response, the chairman said it was not.
It leads us to Monday’s media availability after the morning House and Senate Gov Ops conference meeting. When questioned by reporters, Núñez reverted to her line that the request had been vetted. The facts, though, suggest otherwise.
So the Harris request lives on. If approved this year, Harris will enter the SLERS procurement with the state owning $14 million of its radio inventory. That makes the planned procurement hardly “open” and not the least big “competitive.”
Núñez is doing a yeoman’s job trying to keep the request alive. But a word of advice for her: When everyone gets the joke, it’s time to give it up.
Read the exchange between Van Zant and the Joint Task Force below: