By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—What does a $13 million no-bid software contract have to do with the STAARS $47 million no-bid contract? Many of the same people who championed and worked on the 2009 Paragon Source debacle are the same ones responsible for the STAARS system, which has caused tens of thousands of payments, in the hundreds of millions, to be paid late or not paid at all.
According to a 2009 report by Bob Lowry, then Gov. Bob Riley signed a $13 million, no-bid contract with Paragon Source which Lowry later discovered delivered nothing of value for the millions it extracted from the State’s taxpayers.
According to the report, now found on the internet archive Wayback Machine, “Riley said a committee of top officials in the State Finance Department recommended he sign the contract.” That list of top officials was lead by Bill Newton, the same man who convinced Gov. Robert Bentley to authorize a no-bid contract with CGI to implement STAARS.
Another actor who helped determine the State should use CGI’s STAARS system was Thomas T.J. Nola, a former sub-contractor for Paragon Source.
According to a 2011 article by Lowry, Nola was hired by Department of Finance as an IT manager, earning $86,390 a year. He now serves as head of IT for that department, where he earns almost double that amount. In 2011 Lowry wrote, “Nola had earned $130 per hour as an independent subcontractor under a no-bid contract first awarded to Virginia-based Paragon Source in 2007, according to limited records released by the company under subpoena by the Legislature’s Joint Contract Review Committee.”
However, nowhere on Nola’s State job application is there a single reference to Paragon Source. His work for Paragon is obviously listed under the time he spent as a consultant.
Another Paragon player which has been involved in legislation that led to STAARS is Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City). Williams’ campaign site for his 2010 Senate bid lists his email as
VETSINC was owned by Williams’ father, the late Phillip Williams Sr., who served as State Finance Director in 1995-1996.
Williams, the younger, sponsored SB117 which created a cabinet-level position for IT, currently led by Technology Czar Brunson White, who is set to step down at the end of the month. Williams’ father denied any involvement with Paragon Source
When Williams, Jr., entered the Senate he listed no consulting contracts on his statement of ecumenic interest. As of his latest filing he has 43.
Williams clients include:
3 Loan and/or Finance Companies worth between $1,000 – $10,000
7 Banks worth between $10,000 – $25,000
15 Professional worth between $100,000 – $150,000
3 Municipal worth between $10,000 – $25,000
15 MISCELLANEOUS worth between $25,000 – $50,000
Since becoming a senator, Williams has raked in contracts which could total as much as $265,000 per year.
Many people have wondered why Newton, on several occasions, has served as Acting Finance Director. The answer is simple. According to his personnel records, Newton earns almost $200,000 at year from his merit salary. Until this year, the top-level pay for a Finance Director was $91,000. That has changed. Now, a Finance Director may earn up to $200,000 annually.
Many of the men who brought STAARS to our State also worked on Paragon Source. One is a complete failure, and the other a struggling system still plagued with problems.