By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, September 21, a hearing will be held in a lawsuit challenging Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) controversial $47 million no-bid contract for the purchase of the ,much maligned STAARS software.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) filed suit alleging that the massive no-bid contract violates Alabama’s bid laws and the software does not work. He is asking that the contract be voided and that the purchase money returned to the State’s General Fund.
Lawyers for Gov. Bentley and other officials have moved to dismiss, saying the State auditor lacks legal standing to challenge the spending.
Circuit Judge William Shashy (R) will hear both sides at an 11 a.m. hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Wednesday. The hearing is open to the media and the public.
Zeigler is also suing state Finance Director Bill Newton, Attorney General Luther Strange, and CGI Technology and Solutions, Inc. of Virginia which marketed the expensive software suite to the state.
On September 30, 1982, the State of Alabama, by the Alabama Department of Finance, was granted a license by American Management Systems, Inc. to install the Local Government Financial System Package for the “OS on-line CICS version, Fixed Assets, Performance measurement, and Investment management” on four computers. The software license was for a period of fifteen years; but that contract was renewable. Over the years a lot changed; but American Management Systems continued to be the state’s software vender, even after CGI Technology and Solutions, Inc. bought out American Management Systems. The law required that the contract be bid out. The Bentley administration got around that requirement by amending the contract. The amended contract was never shown to the contract review committee for their input.
The new STAARS software suite cost an incredible $47 million and the burden for paying for that was billed to all the State General Fund agencies. The Alabama Political Reporter’s Bill Britt has extensively reported on the many failures in the new STAARS software which is despised by many of the State workers forced to deal with this very troubled product. Zeigler is asking for the court to void the contract and that his agency and others not have to pay for what most perceive to be an inferior product.
The Governor’s attorneys are arguing that Zeigler does not have standing to bring this suit against Gov. Bentley and that the Governor is not a proper defendant. They are asking that the State Auditor’s lawsuit be dismissed.
Judge Shashy will hear arguments from both sides on Wednesday.
Auditor Zeigler has been highly critical of Gov. Bentley in his second term…….a second term that is increasingly bogged down in more and more scandal and the subsequent investigations of those multiplying scandals.