County equipment invoices suggest possible overpayment

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on August 9, 2011 at 10:11 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 9 at 10:42 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

DALLAS — New questions are surfacing regarding Dallas County's potential over-payment for emergency communications equipment.

The equipment consists of three satellite units, three trailers and one fixed dish on top of the Dallas County Health and Human Services Building.

All of it was purchased by Dallas County in 2005 from a company called Wai-Wize and its CEO, Willis Johnson.

The company and Johnson are named in a warrant as part of the federal investigation of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

Dallas County paid $440,000 on the equipment and for monthly service that an industry expert says probably should have only cost $83,000.

Now, two county officials are calling for an inquiry.

"We need to know what we are going to do about this?" asked County Commissioner Maureen Dickey. “How we are going to recover these funds? How we are going to see that this does not happen in the future?"

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins also weighed in on the subject. "If that is true, Brett, then that would be incredibly disappointing," he told WFAA's Brett Shipp. "I'd have to look at what, if anything, we can do on a go-back basis."

Most of the money went for maintenance of the units for which the county was charged fees ranging from $4,000 to $7,000 a month.

Mike Rambo of Satellite and Wireless Solutions of Royce City was the dealer who sold the equipment to Wai-Wize. He said the monthly service charges appear to be very high.

"That shouldn’t cost the county four to seven thousand dollars a month," he said. "Not at all."

Rambo said the satellite dishes require little or no maintenance. Monthly bandwidth and phone service charges for the county cost $297 a month.

Yet invoice summaries obtained by News 8 show Wai-Wize at times charged the county $5,400 for the monthly service.

Four maintenance invoices submitted to the county in 2009 totaling $29,000 appear to have no back-up information at all.

According to their contract with the county, Wai-Wize should have "submitted complete, fully documented and accurate itemized invoices with attachments..."

We showed those apparently incomplete invoices to Dallas County Administrator Darryl Martin. "I have not reviewed those yet," he said.

We then asked Martin how concerned he was over the apparent mark-up of county-purchased satellite equipment from Wai-Wize.

"Again, I can't speak to that," Martin said. "It was done as an RFP; it was a competitive bid process, and it was done fairly in that regard."

Martin said the County Commission will discuss the Wai-Wize satellite contract in the coming weeks.

Wai-Wize has not returned our phone calls and has not been officially accused of wrongdoing. But they have been contacted by the FBI and should know these questions are not going away.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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