Lobbyist's firm has ties to Vorec Wyatt is agent for contractor to prison system

June 11, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

A company owned by lobbyist Maurice R. "Mo" Wyatt, whose political connections span the state, has an exclusive contract for selling home-detention equipment for Vorec Corp., which last week sold the state $1.2 million of the devices on a noncompetitive basis.

In addition, a company owned by his wife, Beverly A. Wyatt, is a supplier of computers to Vorec, whose contract with the state was approved last Wednesday by the Board of Public Works.

The contract contains a provision that guarantees Vorec a maintenance fee of 50 cents a day for each device. The fee will be adjusted based on changes in the consumer price index.

Mr. Wyatt, 51, the one-time patronage chief for former Gov. Marvin Mandel, is petitioning the Court of Appeals in an effort to regain his license to practice law, which he lost after a 1980 bribery conviction.

The move to reinstate Mr. Wyatt to the Maryland bar -- an effort that has won the support of Maryland's political hierarchy and a host of high-powered businessmen and lawyers -- followed a full pardon by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who quietly granted him executive clemency in September 1991.

David J. Manes, the chairman of Vorec, based in Millwood, N.Y., said that Mr. Wyatt's company, Business Affairs Advisers Inc., is the exclusive sales agent for the home-detention equipment for most of the southeastern United States, including Maryland.

But, Mr. Manes said, Mr. Wyatt's firm was not involved in either of two earlier leasing contracts for the devices for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services -- nor was the company involved in the state's purchase of the equipment.

As a result, he said, Business Affairs Advisers, which operates on a commission basis, did not receive any money from the 1990 and 1991 state leasing contracts nor from last week's sale.

The Board of Public Works -- which is made up of Governor Schaefer, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and Treasurer Lucille Maurer -- agreed to exercise a purchase option on 300 home-detention units that had been leased under a 1990 contract from Vorec Corp. and to buy 300 more that had been leased nearly two years ago when the state took over the Baltimore City Jail.

Mr. Manes said Mr. Wyatt's firm was not affiliated with his company at the time of the first two contract awards and, in the case of the sale, state public safety officials approached Vorec about purchasing the equipment in an effort to save money over the leasing plan.

He also said that among Vorec's national suppliers of computer equipment is Consolidated Computer Investors Inc., a company owned by Mrs. Wyatt that is based in the western Anne Arundel County community of Hanover.

That company deals through Vorec and not directly with the state, though the public safety department is using equipment supplied by Mrs. Wyatt's company, he said.

It is unclear how much Mrs. Wyatt's contract with Vorec is worth.

Consolidated Computer Investors also is a supplier on another state project -- the no-bid $49 million GTECH contract to expand Maryland's lottery operation to include keno, a spokesman for the West Greenwich, R.I.-based firm confirmed. The GTECH contract award is the subject of a federal grand jury probe.

Efforts to reach Mr. Wyatt in the last month have been unsuccessful, but a woman answering his business telephone yesterday told a reporter that "under the advice of his lawyer, he will not be talking to you at all."

Melvin J. Sykes, the lawyer representing Mr. Wyatt in his bid for reinstatement to the Maryland bar, said he advised his client not to speak to the press because, among other reasons, the case was pending before the Court of Appeals. Mr. Sykes also declined to answer any questions.

In written remarks to the Board of Public Works last week, the Department of General Services, acting on the public safety agency's behalf, acknowledged it was "creating a sole source procurement situation" for any future expansion and maintenance of the home-detention system.

"There is only one source for new equipment and maintenance that is compatible with the Vorec system, and that source is Vorec," the board submission stated.

The cost of the 600 sets of monitors and ankle bracelets is $840,000, with the additional maintenance fee of 50 cents a day that will be adjusted according to the inflation rate. The new agreement includes an option to purchase additional units "at a fixed cost of $1,800" each.

Public safety officials estimated the cost of leasing the 600 units at $2,349,900 over three years, compared with $1,181,815 for the purchase and maintenance fees over the same period -- a savings, they said, of $1,168,085.

The officials told the board the department was "convinced" after 30 months of experience with the Vorec system that it provides the state with "the most secure electronic home detention system available."

Despite that endorsement, another state agency, the Department of Juvenile Services, uses home-detention equipment supplied by one of Vorec's competitors, Hitek Community Control Corp., of Florida.

Juvenile Services leases 140 units for $101,520 a year, under a 1990 contract, said agency spokeswoman Jacqueline Lampell.

Hitek also was the company used by the Baltimore City Jail, until the state took it over in 1991. That year, state prison officials made the decision to continue using Vorec equipment instead of using equipment from two manufacturers and the city jail contract was not renewed, officials said.

Richard A. Sullivan, who administers the Central Home Detention Unit for the Division of Correction, said he did not know Mr. Wyatt and always dealt through Mr. Manes for service-related issues.

The Vorec devices also are used in other Maryland counties, including Harford, Cecil, Talbot and Frederick, Mr. Manes said.

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