DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – County Judge Clay Jenkins vowed to scrutinize no-bid contracts more closely Tuesday after the court endured a weeks-long search to locate emergency communication equipment that was thought to be missing or misplaced.
Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson faced tough questions from the county judges during Tuesday’s meeting. He was asked repeatedly about Wai-Wize, the company that provided the equipment.
The owner of Wai-Wize is Willis Johnson, a friend of County Judge John Wiley Price, who is facing a federal probe.
Although no charges have been filed, FBI search warrants executed at Price’s home and office called for any and all documents mentioning Johnson and Wai-Wize.
“We brought contracts that were reviewed by the D.A.’s office and we did our due diligence to make sure that we brought competent people forward to do the work, and they performed the work,” Thompson told the court. “I have no doubt about that.”
Records show that the county paid Wai-Wize more than $1 million from June 2003 through October 2010. Many of those payments were for no-bid contracts to provide communications equipment as part of a bio-terrorism grant. Thompson recommended those contracts.
The court voted 3-2 to end the contracts with Wai-Wize last year. Former County Judge Jim Foster said he asked administrators then why Wai-Wize was winning the no-bid contracts.
“I never got a solid answer from anyone on why we were doing that,” Foster said.
Jenkins said he wasn’t singling out Wai-Wize Tuesday, but pushing for increased transparency during the no-bid process.
“I want to have a very tight bid process that’s very transparent that doesn’t allow anyone to get an unfair advantage or to overcharge us for anything,” he said.
This all comes as County Judge Maurine Dickey repeatedly questioned the whereabouts of six emergency communications satellites Wai-Wize provided to Homeland Security and the Health and Human Services Department, valued at about $30,000 each.
Price said he can now account for all the equipment, but the county’s auditor said she will conduct an inventory herself.
“It shouldn’t have happened the way it did and we do depend on our staff,” Dickey said. “We can’t do staff work, and I feel we were let down.”
Price declined to comment, and Johnson did not respond to messages requesting comment.