by LAM; the author of this post consults on government contracting issues, including at the local level in Virginia.
Manassas City is one of the Virginia jurisdictions that uses traffic cameras on school bus arms to bust stop sign runners. The cameras are generally billed as a deterrent to dangerous drivers, and as a good source of revenue for the places that use them.
Except it turns out that all the way across the country in Dallas, the same vendor who’s been providing the bus arm cameras to Manassas just got busted for allegedly playing a role in bankrupting the local school system—after having allegedly engaged in a pretty major bribery and corruption scheme. This is the same vendor that Manassas Mayor Harry J. Parrish II personally signed a contract with, effective June 22, 2015.
From NBC Dallas/Fort Worth:
For the first time, federal prosecutors have lifted the veil on their investigation into the financial demise of the Dallas County Schools agency.
The new revelations, in court documents, detail a plea deal with New Orleans businessman Slater Swartwood Sr.
Prosecutors allege he was the middle man in a scheme that funneled millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from a school bus camera company — to a top DCS official — in exchange for business deals with that government agency.
The DCS official, who is not identified in the federal complaint, received more than $3 million dollars in bribes and kickbacks in all — money that even paid portions of his credit card debts and his son’s student loans, according to the federal complaint.
Prosecutors say in the document: “The co-conspirators also spent a significant amount of time discussing how to get their stories straight so they could explain the paper trail left by the multi-year bribery scheme they had engaged in.”
While the documents do not name the DCS superintendent, Rick Sorrells was the superintendent during the time the camera contracts were signed.
And Robert Leonard was the top executive at the camera company, Force Multiplier Solutions.
It also looks like some of the cameras that Force Mulitplier Solutions should have provided to other school districts in Texas have gone missing.
The whole thing is a big mess that may raise questions about the vendor Manassas is apparently doing business with, and whether the City Council, led by Hal Parrish, is or should be reconsidering its contracting decision.
Note that the Richmond School Board also maintains a contract with Force Multiplier Solutions, raising the same questions in the Commonwealth’s capital.
If leaders in Manassas and Richmond are taking a second look at their contracts, they might want to bear in mind that the company seems to be rebranding in an effort to keep the money flowing, despite the scandal: Force Multiplier Solutions and Bus Patrol, a camera company apparently taking on some of Force Multiplier Solutions’ old assets, share the same address in Lorton.
They also might want to bear in mind that another traffic camera vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems, which appears to maintain at least one traffic camera contract in Norfolk, may also be a poor choice of vendor, given some recent news.