Check the Manual Under "Dumb"

Broward politicians and bureaucrats are locked in an unwinnable war over a new computer system

The dawn of the Age of Lockwood came in November, after computer giants IBM and Unisys submitted formal proposals to build IJIS. IBM's plan cost about $29 million but covered only part of the system. The Unisys plan included the entire system, but cost $32 million. Because the county commission had authorized only $15 million for the entire project, those figures were a call to battle for county administrators.

A major element in the cost problem was the Clerk's IJIS software. For that, IBM proposed Malvern, Pennsylvania-based Systems & Computer Technology Corp. (SCT), which has 2500 employees and $275 million in estimated 1997 revenues. Unisys proposed Crawford Consulting, Inc., based in North Canton, Ohio, with 65 employees and $8 million in estimated revenues.

The Warner Group, the county's national consultants, made detailed evaluations of the competing software and concluded the Unisys/Crawford proposal represented "higher overall software fit for Clerk of Courts criminal and civil applications." Unisys/Crawford also was cheaper. Its total cost for the Clerk's software applications was $2.8 million; SCT's software alone was $570,000 higher, and overall IBM/SCT costs for the Clerk's applications totaled almost $7.5 million.

Nonetheless the Clerk's office "demanded" SCT, although Lockwood dislikes that word.

"I don't think you'll recall over twenty years that I ever 'demanded' anything; that's a very arbitrary word," Lockwood said, then asked his staff computer manager, Barry Lasher, whether tapes of IJIS technical meetings would show the Clerk's office demanding SCT.

"That is correct," Lasher replied.
"But not 'demanded,'" Lockwood exploded. "I don't think that word is on the tape. Let's get the tape.... If you [reporter] can't extract from [the county] who on my staff gave some kind of ultimatum, then I think you [should] disregard that rather than print a bunch of garbage."

New Times got the tape of the November 3, 1997, meeting of the IJIS technical committee. On it Lasher said the Clerk's computer experts opposed Crawford because they didn't trust the Windows NT operating system that Crawford used, because Crawford was too small to handle the Clerk's job, and because they hadn't been impressed with Crawford's on-site software demonstration.

Then Project Leader Kennedy sprang to action. "Crawford is just totally unacceptable to the Clerk," Kennedy roared. "There is absolutely no way the Clerk can take on Crawford.... We are strongly committed to SCT." Kennedy, it should be noted, did not use the word "demanded" or "ultimatum."

Representatives from the other agencies supported the Clerk's wishes anyway, favoring Unisys as prime contractor but recommending SCT for the Clerk's software. The Unisys/SCT combination was endorsed by the IJIS Selection/Negotiation Committee, composed of five justice agency decision-makers, including Lockwood, and two top county officials, budget director Canada and finance director Phil Allen.

"We caused them some pain," Kennedy said of the county. "We forced Unisys to change from Crawford to SCT, to accept the subcontractor of a rival bidder. I don't think that made people too happy."

Among the people who were not happy were county commissioners, who on November 25 balked at the $32 million price tag, rejected the original proposals of both IBM and Unisys, and told them to try again. Commissioner Scott Cowan admitted, "I had no idea this would segue from a $150,000 [Warner] contract into buying a computer system." At a subsequent meeting Cowan observed, "We don't really have a solid idea of where we want to go."

Commissioners were in for more surprises when Unisys submitted a revised proposal, this time using the Clerk's subcontractor. With SCT now clearly identified as Lockwood's choice, the cost of the Clerk's software has suddenly jumped from $2.8 million to $9.6 million; the total Unisys package has soared from $32 million to $46 million.

Commissioners voted to continue negotiations with Unisys. County administrators launched a counterattack against SCT, a battle known as "Revenge of the Reference Checkers."

Back in November, Clerk's consultant Brian Levy had assured the technical committee that on SCT, "We were able to do some reference checks. It's a solid product."

Two months later the county said it had not yet received written reference checks from the Clerk on SCT's criminal-case software. County staff did its own checking and, claims budget director Canada, "We were flabbergasted."

Canada bombarded the county commission on January 20, charging that the background checks hadn't been done. "What we found was a system that, even with the prior claims of major system installations in large government locations, does not have an operational Criminal Courts function at any location."

Firing back, Clerk's consultant Levy said of Canada's attack, "It's smoke," and implied that county computer people, despite months of discussion, still don't understand the Clerk's software. "There is no 'criminal' system and 'civil' system; it's the same system.... It doesn't matter whether it's civil or criminal as long as the program can handle your business."

Why would county administrators launch such an attack? "You'll have to ask them," Levy said. "I'm just a hired gun here. I'm here to protect the Clerk," then added, "The politics here, I have not seen this before."

As Computer Wars continued last week, Unisys and county officials were negotiating over a revised $21 million proposal that delayed some IJIS elements and modified others while requiring Unisys to conduct tests to ensure that SCT's software works. Although SCT cut its costs in the latest proposal, it is still $1.3 million more than Crawford.

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