The Essex County Ethics Committee has reprimanded two county officials for improperly communicating with a vendor seeking a contract with the county.
Ethics Committee Chairman Mike Orticelle told the Enterprise Friday that longtime county Clerk Joe Provoncha and Deputy Clerk Janet Cross will pay a total of $4,000 in fines. The committee found they may have acted unethically when they recommended the Board of Supervisors awarded a document scanning contract to a central New York company.
Officials at the clerk's office couldn't be reached for comment on Friday.
Essex County Clerk Joe Provoncha
(Enterprise file photo)
The case dates back to 2010, when emails between Cross and Joe Murman of Info Quick Solutions, a Liverpool-based firm that provides hardware and software for image scanning, were provided to the press. The emails showed a cozy relationship between them.
Orticelle said Friday's decision by the Ethics Committee was basically a settlement agreement.
"Mr. Provoncha stipulated to the following things: One, that he behaved improperly, letting IQS create an evaluation of all of the submitted (requests for proposals) and then using that evaluation to convince county officials to hire IQS," he said. "He also stipulated that he failed to properly supervise the deputy clerk, Mrs. Cross, who he had given the management of this process to.
"He admitted to violations of ethics policy, the county policy manual and the misuse of county computers, and he finally admitted that he failed to disclose a continued misuse of the county computer system."
Provoncha will be fined $3,500, and a copy of the decision will be placed in his personnel file, Orticelle said. Provoncha will also be required to resign his positions as deputy county manager and mailroom supervisor, both of which are unpaid.
"Mrs. Cross stipulated ... that she did engage in activities that gave the impression of impropriety because she had an ongoing professional relationship with the representative from IQS during the entire process, which culminated with the acceptance of the bid, and failed to properly disclose this relationship," Orticelle said.
The emails exchanged with Murman contained information that wasn't made available to other bidders, Orticelle said.
"She agreed that she should have known that her communications were improper, but she did not doing anything intentionally to gain anything from this process," he said.
Orticelle said Cross has been an "employee in good standing" for 34 years and has an "exemplary record." She will have to pay a $500 fine and is excluded from future bidding and procurement processes.
Provoncha and Cross were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by a special prosecutor earlier this year. The Ethics Committee has been considering the case since September 2011.
Provoncha has been the county's clerk for 20 years.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.