September 15, 2014
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City’s 'catch and release' policy

To the Editor:

This letter is in response to the Thursday, Oct. 6 article entitled, “City employee disciplined for ‘borrowing’ tools,” which might be better titled: Warwick Police Dept. Catch and Release Program.

No, it’s not an endangered fish species. To a reasonable person, it would appear that the administration has yet again given taxpayers another reason to assail the individuals in charge of this city. A first-year law student would be forced to stipulate for the record that as noted in the aforementioned article, the reason that the city had a detective on station at the city yard was in fact due to several reports offered by whistle blowers of thievery of taxpayer equipment stored at the city yard under the supervision of acting director David Picozzi. In fact, an anonymous e-mail was sent to both this newspaper and also to several people associated with the car tax revolt indicating these allegations. As reaction to these reports, the Warwick Police Department assigned taxpayer assets for the purpose of surveillance at the DPW and did witness an individual enter the premises and leave with $2,000 worth of city property after hours. According to this article, the police report, and my face to face meeting with Oscar Shelton, the incident and arrest of the individual was mitigated due to acting director David Picozzi’s quick thinking alibi that workers are allowed to “borrow” tools, under the unwritten wink and nod policy. As a result, no charges were brought on the individual and the taxpayer suffers another kick in the teeth and middle finger wave. It seems as though now, the “acting director of the DPW” trumps Detective Turcotte, Capt. Nelson, Chief McCartney, the city charter, and the ability of elected officials to put 2 and 2 together.

It also clearly indicates the lack of fortitude to bring charges and fight the union for the purpose of setting precedence, and protecting the taxpayer. What message does this send to our honest hardworking city employees?

The untrained basic taxpayer would come to the following hypothesis after hearing the alibi. The individual states that he was “borrowing the tools to perform work in his yard.” However, he left the city yard on Wed. Sept. 28 at the close of his 3:30 p.m. shift without these tools and inventory, and was stopped late in the evening returning to the yard. Why did he return to the city yard to borrow the tools to clean his yard, as it is reasonable to hypothesize that at that hour, no one in the city does yard work, and he was returning the next morning when he could have “signed out” the tools and began using them in the daylight after his shift?

The individual admitted that he was using the pipe to support a sinking deck at his home. Was this temporary? How many sinking decks are temporarily supported? What about the rags to clean his car? I am sure that he was going to launder the rags, inventory them, and return them to the city. When I questioned Mr. Shelton as to the whereabouts of the contents of the truck that was stopped last evening, he told me that all of the items were “recovered.” I have always been under the assumption that the word “recovered” is used in conjunction with stolen goods and the word “retuned” is used in conjunction with “borrowed” goods, but lets chalk that up to a slip of the tongue. Right!

What type of anesthetized person buys this sort of garbage excuse and cover-up? Picozzi states that he is now going to run the DPW as a business; what was it run as before? The residents should demand a forensic audit of all inventory and hold the department head accountable for both any missing inventory and also for the actions of his workers. That is what happens in the private sector, but not in Warwick. In Warwick, we have excuses that would wake the dead and make them scream in outrage. It seems now clearly evident to all, that at any given time, any employee of the city can concoct an unwritten policy to suit his or her needs. Business as usual in Warwick! I was forced to challenge Mr. Shelton on the issue, who as disturbed about the incident as he was, caved in to the BS excuse of Picozzi. So who is driving the bus?

We have a mayor who is absent from every public hearing that the taxpayer feels is important, a personnel director who could be bamboozled by just about anyone with any electrical activity above the neckline, and now a police department that can't connect the dots and is overruled by a maintenance guy? Where does that leave this city?

If my analysis is wrong, please critique me and educate me as to how things are done in the real world. I would greatly appreciate some concise examples. It would appear that what I and the rest of the taxpayers are used to in the world we live in is dramatically different than the world with the unwritten policies. You just can’t make this stuff up!

Rob Cote
Car Tax Revolt organizer


Comments
11 comments on this item

This is not the first time a city employee got away: Consider the Purvis Systems controversy as reported in the 3/13/08 Beacon. A criminal investigation by the Rhode Island State Police found no problem after interviewing the mayor.

It was my recommendation at the time that this matter be referred to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation because the funds involved were Federal Highway Administration grants. That never happened. That is why it was not a State of Rhode Island problem. The State Police told me that they did not have jurisdiction over a federal grant issue.

Under federal grant regulations when the grant was closed the author of the software -- a Warwick Firefighter -- was required to file a "invention claim". He never did so. It did not matter whether he did the work on his own time or was paid for it. Federal grants are often carried out by volunteer efforts. The fruits of the grants still belong to the federal government even if the researcher did not receive one dime in compensation. In this case, the researcher was hugely rewarded by subsequently selling the grant work to Purvis Systems.

Because of this failure, the property is actually owned by the federal government and Warwick should not be paying $30,000 per year for maintenance. See below.

Beacon Story:

"It sounds like we should be getting the software for free for many more years. The intent, from what I can see, was to write the software, give it to the city, and maintain it for free." City Council Vice President Steven Merolla (D-Ward 9) agrees. Because a city employee developed the software, Merolla believes the employee had no right to sell the software to another company. "They're telling me that this product was developed using the Warwick Fire Department as a test site and the employee didn't use any city time to get that done? Come on! Give me a break," said Merolla. "What this guy did was sell the software rights to another company that he didn't have all the rights to."

Merolla, a lawyer himself, suggests legal action.

"I would suggest we hire an intellectual property attorney to sue Purvis if they're going to continue to charge us $30,000 a year," he said.

Mayor Scott Avedisian said the contract is a good deal for the city, especially considering the fact that the city spent no money on developing the software or purchasing the hardware. He also noted that the funds are already part of the Management Information Systems departmental budget.

"I don't know what they'll do, but I'm hoping we can continue our relationship with Purvis so we'll continue to have the best possible information technology system for Fire and Rescue," said Avedisian."

Richard, you haven't the slightest clue about the Purvis issue, please don't pretend that you do. "It was my recomendation" blah blah blah.... I know you have no clue because I do and you are completly wrong. Atleast Cote has a decent argument with the tool issue. You are AGAIN spouting out at the mouth about something you know very little about....

This is the same guy that lied to police about dumping gas into his septic system at his Diving shop, Your a joke Cote.....Can't wait to see you run for City Council

SteveD:

Here are the grant closeout requirements for Federal Highway Administration Grants. All City of Warwick employees fell under these rules when working with the grant in question which was initially for software. Unless an "Invention disclosure" was filed with Federal Highway, all associated inventions including the development of software during the time that the grant was open becomes property of the federal government. When the city or more likely the State Department of Transportation closed out the grant, one or the other had to make a claim on behalf of the fireman that the software was his and not the federal government's.

So, unless you can come up with the invention disclosure for the benefit of the fireman involved, you really can't make claims about who owns what. We are dealing with federal law here. It is not a simple matter of what seemed to be equitable at the time or now. It is about following the federal requirements and filling out the invention disclosure.

I think I know a whole lot about these kinds of things. I have gone through federal grant closeouts for the development of software.

Here is the requirement from the Federal Highway Administration website:

Authority: 49 U.S.C. 322(a).

Source: 53 FR 8086 and 8087, Mar. 11, 1988, unless otherwise noted.

A -- General

§18.1 Purpose and scope of this part.

This part establishes uniform administrative rules for Federal grants and cooperative agreements and subawards to State, local and Indian tribal governments.

Sec. 18.50 Closeout.

(a) General. The Federal agency will close out the award when it determines that all applicable administrative actions and all required work of the grant has been completed.

(b) Reports. Within 90 days after the expiration or termination of the grant, the grantee must submit all financial, performance, and other reports required as a condition of the grant. Upon request by the grantee, Federal agencies may extend this timeframe. These may include but are not limited to:

(1) Final performance or progress report.

(2) Financial Status Report (SF 269) or Outlay Report and Request for Reimbursement for Construction Programs (SF271) (as applicable).

(3) Final request for payment (SF270) (if applicable).

(4) Invention disclosure (if applicable).

(5) Federally-owned property report. In accordance with Sec. 18.32(f), a grantee must submit an inventory of all federally owned property (as distinct from property acquired with grant funds) for which it is accountable and request disposition instructions from the Federal agency of property no longer needed.

Richard,

The software was developed before being employed by the city. The grant was for equipment, not the idea.

SteveD:

Letter published in the Beacon on March 3, 2009 totally discredits your comment "The software was developed before being employed by the city. The grant was for equipment, not the idea." See below. It was clearly developed on site at Warwick Fire Department under a grant for software development where the grantee-in-charge RIDOT let the software be developed by the city as a grant match in order to use grant funds buy hardware.

Federal grant regulations required Lt. Dunleavy to come forward at the grant closing and claim ownership. If he did not do that then he released any right to claim ownership because the original grant was for software. The only reason why the city could have used funds from the grant to purchase hardware was that city employees were working on the software component. It does not matter if the employees were punching the time clock when developing the software. They were employees working on a grant and unless they formally claimed ownership at the time they had no rights to the grant inventions. This did not happen.

As you can see from the letter below, other members of the Fire Department were being consulted while on the job during the development of this software. The "idea" of the software would have been quite useless if it were entirely specified before Lt. Dunleavy joined the Warwick Fire Dept. because he would have had no idea what to actually program until he received input from other Warwick Fire Dept members.

Here are the facts according to a fire department dispatcher:

Letter: Beat up for having helped out the city

To the Editor: I read with amazement and disbelief the article titled "Council grills firefighter who designed software for the city," which was printed in The Feb. 24 Beacon. Here we have an employee, who at the time was a newbie on the fire department, who volunteered his services and his time to develop a software program that took the Fire Department out of the 1950s and into the new millennium. Having started his company with a partner, Henrik already had a base to build on. What he did was to take that base, and through asking questions of the people that actually would have to use the software, obtain information that would allow him to mold his program into a user-friendly Fire Department Management System that actually addressed the needs of the Fire Service. Alas, he did not do this on his own. Surely there had to be input from management to put the ball in motion. Had Henrik not volunteered his services, I am sure that I would still be using a word processor to type log sheets and a peg board with numbered colored golf tees to keep track of the in and out of service fire apparatus in the city. How is this so? I have been a dispatcher for the Warwick Fire Department for 28 years. For years we had tried to get a computer assisted dispatch (CAD) system in place in both the dispatch center and for the entire department. The answer was always the same—no funds available. While the Police Department went through system after system, we kept keeping paper records and using carbon paper well into the "new millennium." Absurd? Yes. Alas, we had a one of the new guys say, “Hey, I can work on that.” And work he did. Many a time he was in my building after working a 14-hour night shift asking questions and tweaking the program. Many a time he would show up in shorts and flip flops in the middle of summer, on his time off, and do the same. The final product is something that saves us time and resources in processing emergency calls for service, while storing valuable information that is available at the click of a mouse. And I would have to say that the price was right for the city and its taxpayers—$0.00 paid to Henrik. So for five or more years we had a state of the art user-friendly program that cost us nothing, and now there is a maintenance charge from the new company. One would have to say the city made out very well. The cost of technology is through the roof. Go to any store and buy some software, and bring your Visa card folks. The city needs more men like Lt. Dunleavy. Perhaps one of the reasons Henrik got out of the software business was to concentrate on his Fire Department career. Henrik has achieved the rank of Rescue Lt. and the city and its residents will surely benefit from his training and expertise.

Stephen Creta

Warwick Fire Dispatcher

More Details on Software Grant that clearly show the city accepted the Dunleavy effort as a gift very early on in the grant.

In order for Lt. Dunleavy to then sell the software to Purvis Systems and then have Purvis charge maintenance back to the city, an Invention Report would have been required.

Letter from Scott Avedisian, Mayor of Warwick to William D. Ankner, Director RIDOT, dated March 1, 2001

(in part)

"In recent days this administration and the members of the Warwick City Council has (sic) accepted a donation of a software package that will assist in this matter (the Dunleavy package). Therefore I am requesting a waiver of the grant award that will allow us to utilize the $90,000 to purchase necessary hardware."

"By moving forward and granting this waiver, you will be giving us the ability to move forward even quicker and more efficiently than expected. In addition, it will allow the software to be shared with other communities earlier than anticipated."

FAX from Warwick Fire Dept dated August 16, 2001:

"The software system that the City of Warwick is testing and deploying, in coordination with the Department of Health, other State Agencies, and outside companies, will be available to all other communities throughout the state at the successful completion of this deployment.."

Richard, How can somebody who seems intent on being so informed on everything Warwick, be so completely lost. The RISP investigated ad found nothing wrong. Basically the guy did Warwick a favor and he has been harrased ever since.

As a taxpayer I'm glad that there are people who have the time to look out for the average resident. But, in this case you lose credibility, and you make those vile people that hate you look credible.

Patientman: At first blush Lt. Dunleavy's activities seem to be quite innocent. But, because he was working for the City of Warwick on a grant to develop software, both the city and the federal government have residual rights to the software. If the grant were not in place he would have not been working on the solution. All of this was donated to the grant as the letters from the city to the state clearly show.

The big problem is in the sale of the software to Purvis Systems for an undisclosed amount. The city and the federal government should have residual rights to that software. This software has now become a major part of fire systems in New York, Washington DC, and other places including Providence. (See below). At the very least, the city should not be charged $25,000 per year for maintenance. I suspect that royalties should flow back to the city as well. This problem is not going to disappear just because the Rhode Island State Police could not find a state law that was broken. This is a federal matter.

Here is the recent news from Providence posted on the Purvis web site:

"The Providence Emergency Management Agency is charged with preparation, response and recovery of natural disasters, terrorism or manmade disasters. Additionally, it manages the Greater Providence Metropolitan Medical Response System, which is responsible for community medical response in the event of a terrorist attack or mass-casualty incidents."

"'We are excited to provide PEMA with a solution that meets their needs and helps to streamline and enhance their communications capabilities in emergency situations,' said John Desposito, president of Purvis Systems."

Richard...

Your barking up the wrong tree... I wish you would spend all of your time looking into this... It would keep you busy looking for info that just isnt there. He did the city a favor and you want himk arrested or to "PAY UP". If you really dug for info you would see that you are an idiot for looking into this issue..

To SteveD:

I am truly discouraged by your turn from offering counterpoints to simple slams.

Nobody said that the fireman should be arrested. That was clarified with the City Council's vote to send the case to the Rhode Island State Police where they found that there were no state criminal violations. It certainly was not my idea to have the City Council to approve that resolution. So, you must be saying that the City Council and the Mayor are idiots too because they were the ones who went to the State Police. Did all of these people "bark up the wrong tree?"

All of the above "looking into the issue" points to the fact that Purvis Systems missed the point that the software was not Lt. Dunleavy's to sell. Purvis should have known this because they are an experienced government contractor. Now that Purvis is reselling this software in the form of maintenance contracts back to the City of Warwick for tens of thousands of dollars per year taxpayers have the right to ask why.

Based on the letters from the City of Warwick during the grant period and the lack of an Invention Report there is real substance to all of this. The District of Columbia is buying this software. This means that Congress itself is buying it. The City of Warwick should inform Congress that it should not be buying the software because it is literally buying it from itself. The City of Warwick should, at the very least, be collecting royalties on the work done by not just Lt. Dunleavy but all of the city employees that helped him with the specifications, the provision of the hardware to test and implement the system, and the testing and validation of the same.

It is one thing to write software. It is something entirely different to get a large city to install it, test it, accept it, and get funded from the federal government for all the effort, not just the programmmer's work. Computer programs are much more than "writing the code."

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