FirstNet Releases First Report Investigating Openness and Transparency Allegations (9/23/13)
Monday, September 23, 2013 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
The first report on an investigation of allegations made by Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald regarding a lack of openness and transparency with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) was released Sept. 23. The report finds no illegal activity by the board.

The FirstNet Special Review Committee (SCR) looked at three areas of concern raised by Fitzgerald in April.

First it reviewed allegations of a lack of openness around the board’s decision making. “Interviews with staff and board members separately confirmed that decisions were not made during the biweekly teleconferences or the pre-meeting briefings, nor were board members surveyed as to how they intended to vote upon the issues discussed during the calls,” said the report. “The SRC recognizes the concern that the briefings and/or calls may have brought the board to consensus on issues or foreclosed future discussions of other possible options in a way that was not public, even if final votes were not taken. The totality of the information does not support that concern, however.”

The second area investigated was board member access to information. Fitzgerald alleged that some board members had different levels of access to critical documents. The committee said it could not substantiate the concern that existing financial or other reports were intentionally withheld from specific board members.

“The information reviewed suggests that those board members who served in dual capacities (as board members and in managerial roles) did have more access to FirstNet records than the rest of the board,” the report said. “Now that the board has officially established four permanent committees, there will be instances in which committee members have more information about the subject matter of their committee than other board members.”

Finally, Fitzgerald was concerned that the development of FirstNet’s network plan was flawed and didn’t receive adequate input from public safety. The committee found that the planning document referenced by Fitzgerald wasn’t a network plan, FirstNet’s consultation process for public-safety stakeholders is extensive and ongoing, and FirstNet complied with the statutory requirements for developing the nationwide public-safety broadband network.

Fitzgerald said he was encouraged by the report. “After reading the report over the weekend, I was concerned by the final product because the report addresses legality vs. illegality,” he said. “The report finds the processes were not illegal. My motion didn’t assert that we broke a law but instead called out that some of our processes and procedures were not working.”

“But the report did provide some recommendations. It considered revisiting the openness of our meetings and the involvement of the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and equal access to all board members of financial information. Openness is in our best interest as an organization.”

The 10-page report, which was given to FirstNet board members Sept. 20, is available here. A second phase of investigations on allegations of conflicts of interest and contracting issues will begin, with a final report and recommendations planned to be released following the investigations.

Also during the meeting Craig Farrill, FirstNet board member, said numerous responses have been received to the requests for information (RFIs) released in June. They are being analyzed. The largest number of responses was for the network partnering and radio access network (RAN) provisioning RFI.

Assistant General Manager TJ Kennedy said the staff is working on a state readiness matrix to inform states about all the things they need to prepare for their state meetings. Kennedy said coverage and methodology and training and education will be included. A tribal workshop is planned for November.

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