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Firm under cloud still gets new state tech contract

A company under investigation by the state over how it won a multimillion-dollar technology contract has been rehired for another year.

BearingPoint and a Tallahassee software concern, Infinity Software Development, have won 12-month contracts to maintain the state's bank of computer servers, known as the "data center."

The new contracts with the State Technology Office are valued at $1.4-million for BearingPoint and $7-million for Infinity. They replace BearingPoint's previous seven-year, $126-million deal that was canceled three months ago.

Florida Chief Information Officer Simone Marstiller canceled that contract, saying she discovered a state employee communicated inappropriately with the vendor before the contract was awarded under her predecessor in August 2003.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating. An FDLE spokesman declined to comment Wednesday.

Marstiller's office said an investigation is not enough to legally disqualify BearingPoint, which continued to operate the data center through the end of the year, as the state gave 90 days' notice when it canceled the contract.

"Infinity and BearingPoint were selected because they had very competitive pricing," said State Technology Office spokeswoman Carla Gaskin. "Additionally, BearingPoint has proven itself by providing quality services and has demonstrated knowledge and experience."

Wednesday's news drew criticism from state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale, who last month joined Senate Democrats in asking Gov. Jeb Bush to bar BearingPoint from bidding on state contracts until FDLE's investigation is done.

While the state can't legally block BearingPoint, Campbell said, "practically and from a perspective of using God-given business practices, you don't fire someone and then hire them back."

Bush has contended that BearingPoint is in the clear. In a Dec. 23 letter to Campbell, Bush said that based on his recent conversations with FDLE, "there does not appear to be any criminal wrongdoing on the part of the company."

BearingPoint officials said the McLean, Va., company was "pleased to have been selected to continue to serve the citizens of the state of Florida."

The scrutiny comes as BearingPoint also faces investigations by two federal agencies over its operation of the controversial computer system at Bay Pines VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg.

The privatization of the state's data center in 2003 drew little attention. But in the wake of the contract's cancellation, state officials say it may not remain an outsourced enterprise. The changes BearingPoint made at the data center could produce continued savings if state employees were rehired to run the operation, according to a State Technology Office business case study, which Bush now requires for his privatization efforts.

During the newly awarded one-year contracts, the office will assess whether to launch a new bid process or to return it to a state-run enterprise, Gaskin said.