Florida VA Chief Refuses Comment On Blueware Connection
By Charles Parker // December 14, 2014
next hearing IN criminal cases is in February 2015
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – The executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs refused comment to Space Coast Daily on deposition testimony that he was personally involved in efforts to obtain state incentives for BlueWare.
The company has been in the middle of controversy since entering into disputed scanning contracts in 2012 with then Brevard County Clerk of the Court Mitch Needelman.
FDVA’s Mike Prendergast did not respond to two media requests that asked whether he had had any professional or personal contact with representatives from either BlueWare or lobbying firm Eligere Strategies, including lobbyist Matt DuPree, prior to a public ribbon cutting event in June 2012 at BlueWare’s Melbourne offices that Prendergast attended. (See related story links below)
R. Steven Murray, the FDVA’s Communications Director, said that Prendergast participated “in the June 2012 ribbon cutting in Melbourne in his role as executive director, as the firm (BlueWare) pledged to support the hiring of Florida veterans.”
In the March 2014 deposition, which is available on the Brevard Clerk’s website, former BlueWare executive Nicholas Geaney said that DuPree put “pressure” on Prendergast in early 2012 to push the state to team with county and local entities, including the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, for almost $2 million in potential revenue for BlueWare tied to the creation of jobs.
A Florida Department of Economic Opportunity incentives package was approved in July 2012, however, BlueWare did not receive any of the potential funding.
Current Clerk of the Court Scott Ellis said, “BlueWare was clearly targeting the Florida Department of Veteran’s Affairs for a contract.”
Murray told Space Coast Daily that BlueWare responded to FDVA Invitations-to-Negotiate. These formal submittals occurred after the timeframe Geaney alleged the interaction between DuPree and Prendergast occurred.
“In September 2012 and again in January 2013, FDVA publicly posted two Invitations to Negotiate (FDVA-ITN-13-004N) for a Health Information Technology System. (No selection was made on the September 2012 ITN).
BlueWare was one of several companies that submitted proposals to both ITNs. In both cases, BlueWare was not selected.
“FDVA Executive Director Mike Prendergast was not part of the FDVA evaluation committee, which was comprised of subject matter experts from FDVA’s Homes Program and Information Technology Division,” Murray said.
The Geaney deposition was part of discovery in a lawsuit brought by Ellis against BlueGem, a company owned by BlueWare’s Rose Harr, regarding the disputed scanning contracts.
DuPree, Harr, Needelman have all been charged with a variety of bribery-related and bid tampering charges in connection with the contracts.
The cases were moved to Seminole County in 2013. The next hearing for all three criminal cases is in February 2015.