Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg police paid unapproved RNC consultant $9,500

ST. PETERSBURG — Police Chief Chuck Harmon "verbally counseled" a department employee who he recently learned hired a computer consultant during the Republican National Convention without permission.

Mike McDonald, assistant director of the agency's administrative services bureau, arranged for the technician to be at the department around the time of the convention to service the agency's Computer Aided Dispatch system, in case it shut down or was attacked by hackers.

The consultant from Intergraph, the same vendor that created the system, was paid $9,500.

But neither Harmon or Maj. Melanie Bevan, who was in charge of the agency's security efforts during the convention, knew anything about it until last week. The need for such a consultant wasn't brought up in any of the department's RNC planning meetings, and it wasn't authorized by Harmon or Bevan.

"We never talked about it," Harmon said, adding that he spoke to McDonald, an upper-level manager, about the matter Thursday afternoon. "I think his heart was in the right place. … But we should have talked about it before the money was allocated."

The money, Harmon said, will come out of dispatch funds in next year's budget.

The situation flabbergasted City Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran.

"What really disturbs me is that you have the police chief and a top major who knew nothing about this," Curran said Thursday. "The question is, who's running the Police Department then?"

Curran said this latest revelation underlines her frustration with the lack of transparency about the city's costs related to the RNC.

St. Petersburg officials have resisted sharing the security costs. The city of Tampa freely released a breakdown that shows St. Petersburg is asking to be reimbursed for about $950,000. A final invoice is due to Tampa on Monday.

Harmon said he ordered an inquiry into the errant expenditure as soon as Bevan told him about it, which was late in the day Sept. 20.

Bevan was conducting an internal audit last week and came across the bill for the consultant, coded as RNC-related, he said. She flagged it and brought it to the chief's attention, who agreed not to submit it as a reimbursement cost to the city of Tampa because it hadn't been discussed in advance.

"I'm just not going to spring a bill on someone else," Harmon said. "We got some value out of (the consultant) being here. I don't want people to think he was here for five days and didn't do anything."

The consultant corrected technical issues during that time, validated security and provided training to IT staff, the department said.

Since the department's designated Computer Aided Dispatch technician had recently left the department, the consultant also was the only fully trained CAD support specialist on site, Harmon said.

Harmon said that in hindsight, hiring the consultant is probably something he would have been open to, given the magnitude of the RNC and the vacancy in the tech department."

"I just need to know about it," he said.

Harmon said he does not think McDonald set out to break a rule or deceive anyone, pointing to the fact that he turned in what he believed was a legitimate RNC cost.

McDonald, reached late Thursday, said he did not have anything to add. He will not face any other sort of discipline, Harmon said.

"I haven't lost my faith or trust in him. Mike and I talked about it, and I think he understands my expectations," Harmon said. "People make mistakes."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643.

St. Petersburg police paid unapproved RNC consultant $9,500 09/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 10:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Hillsborough Democrats call Confederate monument vote a continuation of white supremacy

    Blogs

    TAMPA — Two days after Hillsborough County commissioners decided not to touch a Confederate monument in downtown Tampa, Hillsborough County Democrats have decided to weigh in.

    On Friday afternoon, Hillsborough County Democrats decried a vote by the county commission not to remove the Confederate monument in downtown Tampa.
  2. For starters: Ramus to DL, Peterson back, no further moves

    Blogs

    We were expecting a flurry of roster moves this afternoon and we got one. OF Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.

    Colby Ramus is on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to June 19 with left hip tendinitis.
  3. Editorial: Failure to invest in transit means fewer HART routes

    Editorials

    It was simple economics that forced HART, Hillsborough County's mass transit agency, to cut its bus routes. The agency will focus its resources on the more crowded urban core, limiting service in the suburbs in an effort to get more bang for the buck. These are the hard choices communities must make when they refuse to …

    Hillsborough Area Regional Transit is cutting bus routes from 41 to 34. Those in more rural areas will find it harder to catch a bus.
  4. Editorial: Senate bill sacrifices health care for tax cuts

    Editorials

    No wonder Senate Republicans drafted their health care legislation in secret. Beneath the surface, it looks no better than the House version that even President Donald Trump has called mean. This remains a massive tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of the poor, the middle class and the elderly, and it would cost …

    No wonder Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, above, drafted their health care legislation in secret. Beneath the surface, it looks no better than the House version that even President Donald Trump has called mean.
  5. UberEATS expands to more cities within Tampa Bay

    Business

    TAMPA — UberEATS is expanding its service area in Tampa Bay. Starting today, users in Gibsonton, Odessa, New Port Richey, Riverview and Tarpon Springs can have food dropped off at their location.

    UberEATS is expanding its service area in Tampa Bay. [Courtesy of UberEATS]