TALLAHASSEE -- A Florida appellate court confirmed that the Florida Department of Management Services did not err in its decision regarding a major state telecommunications contract that was questioned by AT&T.
The First District Court of Appeal of Florida rejected the claims of AT&T pertaining to the decision of the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS) to sign Harris Corp. to the telecommunications contract. In its protest, AT&T pointed out that DMS implemented a flawed system in choosing which company would win the contract. To resolve the matter, the telecommunications corporation proposed that a new round of bidding should be initiated by the department. However, the panel of judges in the appellate court rejected the claims of AT&T in its 15-page decision on the matter.
According to the petitioners, the winner of the contract failed to establish its capacity to fulfill the obligations set forth. In addition, AT&T felt that the DMS modified the requirements to ensure that Harris would be a qualified candidate. The disputed telecommunications contract was worth $360 million and would be binding for seven years.
"Considering the issue as framed by the parties before us, we find the department's actions in modifying the ITN's specifications during the negotiation phase did not impede fair and open competition," wrote Chief Judge Clay Roberts in the court’s ruling. The decision to reject the claims of AT&T was made unanimously by all three judges in the panel. Roberts was joined by judges T. Kent Wetherell and Ross Bilbrey.
“The fact that the department opted for a better value is not grounds for protest when the stated goals and questions of the ITN remained unchanged –achieving a highly reliable network that represented the best value to the state," Roberts wrote.
The issue started in June 2014 when DMS decided to send out an invitation to negotiate (ITN) to potential vendors who were interested to handle the contract for MyFloridaNet 2 (MFN 2), which was a telecommunications infrastructure data network designed to manage "SUNCOM." Prior to this, AT&T had been the service provider for the MFN 1. However, DMS later decided to accept the proposal of Harris for the subsequent contract. AT&T then issued a protest over the decision when the department posted a notice of intent to award the contract to Harris.
Meanwhile, DMS spokesperson Maggie Mickler stated that DMS was “pleased to receive the (court’s) decision, which reflects and reaffirms the department’s commitment to a fair, open and competitive procurement process,” according to Florida Politics.
She told Florida Politics, “The department goes to great lengths to protect the integrity of the solicitation process for all procurements, and its experienced and knowledgeable staff work diligently to maintain the highest standard of integrity in public contracting.”
Harris president Carl D’Alessandro shared that the ruling of the appellate court simply confirmed that DMS implemented a “fair and honest” process in awarding the telecommunications contract to their company.