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City employees return money received for consulting on city camera project
[April 08, 2009]

City employees return money received for consulting on city camera project

WILKES-BARRE, Apr 08, 2009 (The Citizens' Voice - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Three city employees will return $6,000 in stipends they received for consulting work done for the city-sponsored, nonprofit entity created to oversee the city-wide surveillance camera project, city officials said Tuesday night.

"This project is too positive," said City Administrator J.J. Murphy. "If there's going to be a cloud over it because of the stipend, it's not worth the stipend." Murphy said the contract for the network will be awarded and presented to the public Tuesday, April 14. Murphy received $3,000 from Hawkeye Security Solutions, the non-profit overseeing the project. Murphy's 2009 salary is $78,757, according to city documents.

City IT Director Louis Lau and IT Engineer Frank Hershberger were both paid $1,500 stipends by the Hawkeye board of directors. Lau's 2009 salary is listed as $62,832, and Hershberger's, $39,338.

Murphy, Mayor Tom Leighton and Council Chairman Tony Thomas Jr. said the decision to return the stipends to Hawkeye was made before Vice Chairwoman Kathy Kane requested that the city's legal counsel investigate "the legality" of Hawkeye's existence.

Kane voted against a resolution on Tuesday night's agenda to allow Hawkeye access to $2 million in state grants awarded for the camera project. The city must provide receipts to the state for completed work before the money is released.

"Something about this just doesn't seem right to me," she said after the meeting. "There are pieces missing." Hawkeye was incorporated Sept. 12, according to state records, and its address is listed as 40 E. Market St., which is city hall. Hawkeye is run by five board members: former Deputy City Controller Laura Brace, Wilkes-Barre Vo-Tech Principal Frank Majikes, former Councilman Phil Latinski, former police Chief Joseph Coyne and police Patrolman James Fisher, whose 2009 salary is $49.689.

Leighton said the non-profit was created on "advice from the (city) attorneys" in the vein of city boards and authorities to insulate the city from legal liability.

"It was determined we would create another entity to run this project because if you look around the country, most camera networks aren't run by cities for legal reasons," Leighton said.

The network will include more than 100 cameras throughout Wilkes-Barre, including in the downtown, neighborhoods and parks.

On Tuesday, Hawkeye board members will choose a contractor to design, install and maintain the system from four IT companies: CDW-G, a subsidiary of CDW Corp.; T.A.C., a subsidiary of Schneider Electric; GTSI; and Let's Think Wireless., 570-821-2052 To see more of The Citizens' Voice or to subscribe to the newspaper, visit Copyright (c) 2009, The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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