The Persing Administration continued to move forward towards the abyss at the City Meeting of 3/24/14, as the unraveling camera debacle threatened to destroy what little credibility they had left. Once again former city resident Drake Saxton probed the murky depths of the bid process with a whole series of questions about both the bidding itself and also the subsequent purchase and installation.
Flawed Bidding Process
Prospective vendors had been asked to bid on quantities of 65 to 100 of each of 2 cameras from Mobotix of Germany, both models M12 SEC DNIGHT, one version with wide angle capability and the other with normal lenses – and both of which possessed full day and night vision capability. The original camera specifications had been drawn up by Councilman Todd Snyder.
Global Surveillance Systems of Chantilly, VA, was the winning bidder, announced after the opening of sealed bids by Snyder at the city meeting of 10/22/2012. They had bid at prices between $1105 and $1198 for the camera models and even threw in 1 free camera for every 20 purchased.
At the same meeting Snyder announced plans to spend $30,000 on 20 network video recorders with 6TB storage capacity priced at $1,500 each, again from Global Surveillance Systems, and $7,715.80 on Verizon network routers from a different company, Cradlepoint Technologies. We have no idea why the network video recorders were not included in the bidding process.
At the next city meeting, on 11/11/2012, it was announced that Global Surveillance Systems and second placed ABP International Inc. had withdrawn their bids. They were both wholesalers and did not want to bid against their resellers, some of whom were also involved in the bidding process. The contract was awarded that night to third placed bidder, Genesis Security Integrations of Pittsburgh, PA, and Snyder announced that this company had agreed to honor the offer of 1 free camera for every 20 purchased too.
This is where it all starts to become interesting. CEO of Genesis Security Integrations was Aaron Nigro. His original bid prices were between $1200 and $1215 per camera, but he seemingly increased his prices to $1275 and $1315, and did not even supply the camera specified in the contract. Instead the City ended up with Mobotix M12 SECs – a model without night vision capability. So, in effect, they were paying above the bid price for an inferior model.
Nigro was also paid $1750 each for 15 network video recorders with 3TB storage – half the storage capacity of the ones agreed on October 22nd, and at an additional price of $250 each. The same model, Exus Qstor QMX40, is currently available online at a retail price of $1350 including 3TB of storage. Who sanctioned this expenditure, and why?
Most seriously of all, why were none of these price increases and modified bid specifications ever discussed at a public meeting, an omission in direct contravention of the Sunshine Act?
$71,000 Project Overspend
Nigro’s first invoice to the City totaled $158,688.00 and included 1 free camera. A total of 38 Mobotix M12 cameras had been purchased. 2 more cameras purchased would have resulted in an additional free one, but this simple fact seems to have been missed by our city administration.
Shortly afterwards, and following his arrest by state police on felony theft charges, Nigro changed his business name – from Genesis Security Integrations to Global Security Tactics, and moved from Pittsburgh to Carlisle. Coincidentally, it was around this time that Jim Eister took over the camera project from Todd Snyder.
Despite his arrest and previous less than exemplary record, the City continued to feed Nigro more business and more money. His personal expenses up until 12/31/2013, including accommodation at the Edison Hotel, totaled some $15,000, or $2,500 per month.
There were also bills for the supply of LED street lights (at $9745 just under the $10,000 bid threshold), more equipment, and general installation expenses. According to the information we have on file, Nigro has received payments and installation materials totaling $225,000 up until 12/31/2013.
Adding bills from other suppliers, for network routers, networking boxes, switches and power supplies totaling some $45,906.91, spending on this out-of-control project up until 12/31/2013 has been around $271,000.00 and the bills are still rolling in.
The City appears to have no record of serial numbers for their cameras. They can’t explain why camera specifications were downgraded but prices went up. Far be it for us to suggest any improprieties took place, but in the event that the cameras supplied were not new, but taken from another contract, is there any way in which the City Administration as a whole would even know?
For the protection of themselves, and to insure that federal funds have been used, as declared by them, for the purposes for which they were received, the Administration must undertake due diligence, however belatedly, inspect their cameras, (if they actually know where they all are), record the serial numbers and submit this list directly to Mobotix to discover their histories.
Lack of Night Vision
Under Saxton’s questioning about the lack of night vision, Persing said that the cameras “did not need night vision – they were all installed in well-lit areas”! Apart from the stupidity of this comment – one of the first things the police advise home owners about security is to light up their property, as bad people do not like brightly lit areas – it also reveals the consummate ease with which Persing can warp reality. At a previous meeting he had stated that there were some cameras with night vision and some without, because “not every location in which they were installed needed night vision”!
These cameras also have built-in microphones, which can be controlled remotely. Persing claimed that the microphones were “not wired up”. This is patent nonsense. There is no “wiring up” involved in their installation. All camera features are software controlled, and this can be done from a remote location using something as simple as a Smartphone.
Use of microphones while recording video is illegal, and it is a moot point if even the capability of them being used is also illegal. The cameras do have a feature to permanently disable the microphones, but there is apparently no documentation to indicate if this was done during installation. Why have the City not insisted on this and received the appropriate certification?
The City were again very coy about who, apart from Nigro, can actually access the camera feeds, can control their operation, and can surreptitiously monitor Sunburians going about their lawful daily business. We do know that the cameras can be used at a maximum of 17 locations – that is the number of networking boxes which were purchased. Take out the 3 locations covering the Riverfront, the cameras monitoring Memorial Bridge traffic, the ones at the Ice Rink & Pool and Fort Discovery, and that leaves a maximum of 11 places where they can mount cameras.
We are expecting major revelations at the forthcoming murder trial, about how this system failed our police department during the Craigslist Killer investigation. If the cameras are of no use in a critical situation such as this, then what is the point in having them at all?
The entire exercise from beginning to end has been one of ineptness and bungling incompetence, and a master class on how to waste federal tax dollars. Certainly, very few local criminals will lose sleep over the presence of these cameras in their neighborhoods.
Grossman’s Damascene Moment
We firmly welcome Daily Item Publisher, Gary Grossman’s, belated arrival in the real world. It is just a pity that it didn’t happen earlier – like before the November election campaign for example, during which the constant attacks of his newspaper against Joe Bartello, amounting to nothing short of character assassination, did much to help secure Persing’s infamous victory.
We will close our article with this quote from his Sunday 23rd March editorial:
“How Sunbury invested more than $200,000 in federal homeland security grant money for surveillance cameras has been a running story for four years.”
“The cloak of secrecy applied to that project was allegedly to prevent revelation from foiling crime-fighting intent. The cameras are comparatively too expensive, too complicated, too few and too poorly positioned for maximum advantage and public participation.”
“The camera project has fallen short of one expectation after another. Because of the veil of secrecy, these missteps have raised suspicions of cronyism, incompetence and bad judgment.”
Quote from Gary Grossman, copyright © Daily Item
To be continued.