State issued lucrative notary processors solicitation immediately after receiving letter from Governor’s general counsel

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The day before the deadline for a notary processors solicitation, the Department of State responded to a public information request about the new procedures made three weeks earlier.

The solicitation was issued in September — the day that Governor Rick Scott’s general counsel, Pete Antonacci, had written Secretary of State Ken Detzner about new procedures “to maintain high quality standards for prompt and accurate notary application processing.”

The governor is responsible for the appointment of notaries and Antonacci’s duties included supervising the process.

The letter is dated Sept. 5, the day that the Department issued a 17-page procurement solicitation. The deadline to respond to the solicitation for licensing to service Florida’s 400,000 notaries is today, Nov. 14.

Currently there are 21 processors providing back-office services: checking paperwork, filing applications electronically and issuing surety bonds. DOS is implementing a plan to issue up to five licenses to provide the services to notaries. The new standards include an ability to process 2,000 applications a month.

In 2014, National Notary Association was the only current processor demonstrating an ability to satisfy the criteria. The company processed more than 2,000 applications a month six times.

Critics have complained that the solicitation process is different than the competitive bid process outlined in state statute. Furthermore, they say what looks like a competitive process on closer examination appears to be more of a no-bid process.