Opposite Day, every day

Matt Westerhold
Apr 21, 2014

It might be a sweetheart deal for Team Ray Technologies, the Bellevue company that provides software and computer support for courts in Sandusky County.

A worthy effort, apparently, Team Ray's Rockware Justice programming service was started some time in 2004 after then-county clerk of courts Warren Brown sought guidance from the Sandusky County prosecutor's office, which told him court services software could be exempted from competitive bid requirements.

"Team Ray was a local firm that was able to write the software in a non-proprietary fashion," Brown told the Register, citing the exemption for products or services that can't be purchased in the free market.

But that seems oxymoronic.

Team Ray used unrestricted, trade name-free programming to build a custom system for the county. The plan was to break "the golden handcuffs" other software companies had in the marketplace and give he county ownership.

Company president and CEO Ryan Ray called it a "joint venture" with Brown and a "pet project" they had together. Brown called that description on the Team Ray/Rockware Justice website, "nothing more than marketing verbiage."

In the years since, however, Brown appears to have married the county's adminisrative court services to Team Ray, with potentially little or no oversight over taxpayer dollars and exempt from cost comparisons by way of a competitive bid.

"It was imperative that the coding format be written so most programmers with a skillset in dot net and sequel could assist in writing fixes or additional packages/add-ons," Brown said, seeming to contradict his own reasoning.

The software is so user-friendly practically anyone with a basic programming skillset can use it and optimize it, yet only Team Ray controls it. Only Team Ray can invoice for it. The outcome proved to be just another set of handfuffs, only this pair might be tighter on taxpayers, and sweeter for Team Ray.

MAKES NO SENSE

It seems questionable, too, the exemption from competitive bid, which assistant county Prosecutor Norman Solze briefly described in a March 25 email to Overmyer, is necessarily applicable.

But even if it does apply, it wouldn't appear to further exempt Team Ray from needing a valid contract with the county. A contract defines the scope of services and costs, and also establishes the expectations of both parties

Team Ray's been paid $324,000 since September 2010, but Brown and other county officials have been unable to locate a contract or document with clear detail of what the payments bought.

"I do not have any paperwork in my possession that is related to this matter," Brown, the county administrator who is a candidate in the May primary for the county auditor seat, told the Register March 31.

The current clerk of courts, Tracy Overmyer, said Brown provided the contract.

"You received a copy of the contract that Warren Brown initiated," she told the Register Tuesday, complaining that articles in the Register have not been accurate.

Not so, said Brown.

"I have stated previously that I have no paperwork on the Team Ray software matter in my possession," he said Friday.

— SHE SAID, HE SAID, HE SAID, HE SAID

Overmyer suggested court administrator Brock Kimmet fulfilled some functions related to Team Ray. But Kimmet dodged the topic whether any contracts exist, or if the county has any diagram or understanding what it's buying from Team Ray.

"I do not know what they consist of," Kimmet said. "That process had already been initiated prior to my arrival."

"I've answered the questions I'm going to answer," Overmyer said, referring the entire matter to assistant county Prosecutor Norman Solze, who "had reviewed the contract and everything" related to it.

But whether by super-secret gag order from visiting Judge Dale Crawford, or not, Solze intends to keep his lips sealed.

"I have no other comment concerning Rockware Justice and Team Ray than previously provided," Solze told the Register Friday.

For his part, Judge Crawford said he respected the media, mostly, except maybe the Register, in recent comments that included his endorsement of Team Ray.

"If any elected county official made a mistake, let me tell you something, it wasn't because, and I know these people and I've checked into this stuff. It's not because they did it on purpose," Crawford said.

Note: This editorial blog has been changed to correct the reference to Warren Brown seeking elected office as a candidate in the May primary for county auditor. 

Comments

ContraryAnn

"Brown, the county administrator who is a candidate IN NOVEMBER for a county commissiner seat, told the Register March 31."

Actually, Brown is a candidate in the MAY PRIMARY for the position of COUNTY AUDITOR.

IS IT ANY WONDER SO FEW TRUST THE REGISTER FOR ACCURATE REPORTING?

Matt Westerhold

Thanks for reading the column ContraryAnn. The item you noted has been corrected with the correction noted at the end. 

ContraryAnn

Still you give him an advantage over his Primary opponent by refusing to note he is a candidate in the MAY PRIMARY. He quite possibly won't make it to November as Ms. Miller is a worthy candidate with Tea Party backing.
For some of us, accuracy matters. Or are you favoring that the man who can't account for the expenditures you feel are so pivotal is running for AUDITOR?

ContraryAnn

He is NOT yet a candidate in November.
So your story AND your NOTE still are incorrect.

Blue.Streaker

I noticed it, too, but I'd rather allow Matt to howl at the moon in splendid ignorance. This story died a long time ago; now he calls it a column.

holysee

story has never died....maybe festered...surely alive and ongoing.

Babo

Hopefully Mr. Brown's opponent in the primary will highlight the fact that he does not seem to have any idea of the necessity for contracts to support expenditures of public funds. Mr. Brown appear to be woefully unqualified to be an auditor or a county administrator.

Matt, has the newspaper considered starting to file legal actions such as Mandamus to compel production of public documents?

Diane Schaefer

Matt, Disregard my comment - problem has been corrected.

Jim Lahey

All these big fancy words in the article but it doesn't even have the right position he's running for. And besides...nobody cares.

holysee

which sandco official r u?

holysee

Brok Kismett does what exactly at the court house?