Subpoena seeks Suffolk records surrounding IT commissioner, software deal

A grand jury subpoena has been served on

A grand jury subpoena has been served on the Suffolk County Legislature seeking records and testimony surrounding the hiring of Donald Rodgers, a technology commissioner, and a proposed software deal with a private vendor. Photo Credit: Linkedin

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A grand jury subpoena has been served on the Suffolk County Legislature seeking records and testimony surrounding the hiring of a technology commissioner and a proposed software deal with a private vendor.

Clerk of the Legislature Tim Laube confirmed the subpoena was served Feb. 19 by staff from the Suffolk County district attorney's office. "I responded and sent the records to the DA's office the next day," Laube said Tuesday.

The subpoena seeks records of legislative proceedings and communications in connection with the appointment of Donald Rodgers as the county's commissioner of information technology and any records of authorization to hire and pay an information technology consulting firm, Red Dog Design Inc.

Rodgers, who did not return calls or email seeking comment Tuesday, owned Red Dog Design at the time he was hired in April 2012, according to his resume on file with the county. His attorney, Alan Abramson, declined to comment.

There was no county requirement that Rodgers divest himself of the company, a Suffolk spokeswoman said.

Rodgers was named to the technology post by County Executive Steve Bellone and subsequently confirmed by the legislature.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who raised questions in committee during Rodgers' appointment process about his Red Dog Design ownership, said Tuesday he had no knowledge of the subpoena.

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He asked at the time about the ownership issue to ensure it would not present any conflict of interest issues with Rodgers' government post -- "that he wouldn't be using his position to drive business to his own company or to a product that he would then profit from its use," Schneiderman said.

The focus of the ongoing DA investigation was unclear Tuesday. The county would not comment on the subpoena, but confirmed that neither the executive nor any department had been served with a subpoena.

County Comptroller Joe Sawicki, in response to questions from Newsday, said there were no records of any contracts, invoices or payments to Red Dog Design Inc. dating back through 2011. Laube said there were no records of the legislature authorizing payment to Red Dog.

The subpoena also sought testimony, documentary submissions or statements Rodgers made before the legislature, including about a Microsoft/Dell Enterprise Agreement.

That $4.9 million, five-year deal was initially approved by the legislature in June, but a bond resolution to fund it two weeks later failed to get the necessary 12 votes.

The proposed agreement put some Bellone administration senior staff, including Rodgers and performance management deputy county executive Thomas Melito, at odds with the legislature's Office of Budget Review, which in a May report had warned: "Actual cost savings are much less than anticipated and may not be attainable at all."

Under a New York State contract, the county paid $117,030 for support services to Microsoft in November, Sawicki said. Asked if the comptroller's office had received a subpoena, he said: "It's my policy not to comment on any investigations underway by the Suffolk County district attorney."

Rodgers and Melito argued for the need for the Microsoft system in lengthy debates at committee and before the legislature between May and June last year. The software deal, backers said, was an attempt to standardize and modernize the computer system throughout departments so the county could better evaluate efficiencies of various operations.

But among those who voted against it, Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said Tuesday his concerns stemmed from a belief that the county didn't have a well thought-out plan to deploy the nearly $5-million investment and that staff first needed to be better trained on existing systems. "It all sounded very nice, but if you buy a car that goes 300 mph and the speed limit only allows you to go 55, what's the point?" Cilmi said.

Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) -- who like Cilmi was unaware of the subpoena -- said at the time he questioned the need for a multiyear, multimillion-dollar enterprise agreement, likening the deal to "drinking champagne on a beer budget."

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"I saw it was overreaching in that the case was never made for the benefits to the county of such a complex piece of software that we could not afford in the midst of a $150-million deficit," he said.

With Paul LaRocco

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