A computer consulting and services contract that Finance Director Ron West said would put the city in "far better shape" met with criticism from Councilwoman Gloria Taylor last week and might be one of the few controversial items on Monday's agenda.
The request for the services, including Cloud storage and various upgrades, follows a recent "ransomware" attack on Plainfield municipal computers.
In public comment before council review of the agenda, resident Alan Goldstein raised pay-to-play concerns about the $37,600 contract with Sysnet Solutions, but Corporation Counsel David Minchello said it did not fall within the categories of contracts subject to pay-to-play rules.
When the item came up for a consensus to put it on the April 11 agenda, Taylor questioned a $500 campaign contribution and why there was no bidding. Minchello said the company had "proprietary information."
"It appears to be a little shady," Taylor said.
Councilwoman Diane Toliver also questioned West, who said the company had "better tools and better equipment," but Toliver said," So the $37,000 is just the beginning of safeguarding our system. How much more are you going to come back (with)?"
Documents in the council packet note a $2,500 monthly cost in the future for all the services once the initial work is done. The city will not have to purchase new servers for three to five years, will not have to pay for server maintenance and will also save on power and cooling costs.
West said compared to numbers from other companies, Sysnet cost "substantially less while providing more."
"They have the intelligence that will put us in far better shape," West said, adding equipment will be paid for by the vendor and the city will not have to buy it.
Taylor said the deal was "not acceptable" and called for it to be moved off the agenda, linking it somehow to the mayor being on television.
Councilwoman Bridget Rivers said it seemed the city was in violation of its own pay-to-pay laws and accused Minchello of "dancing around" the issue.
West said the company was not subject to the law and Minchello repeated that the ordinance referred to professionals who hold licenses, such as engineers, lawyers and auditors.
"It is not ethical in my judgment, come on," Taylor said.
Council President Cory Storch said he was in favor of moving the resolution to the agenda, noting the city was attacked and had downtime. He likened the situation to "a nationwide advertisement to hackers to come in and attack us." Saying the city would lose a lot more than $37,000, he urged action on the resolution.
"Other municipalities were hacked," Rivers said. "Did the director of IT reach out to other IT?"
West said professionals were consulted.
"A major part of our intent was to get this done," he said. "Otherwise we are at risk because we are not as strong as we should be."
Councilman Barry Goode asked what was in place now, and West said the city has services, "but there is a need for backup."
At that point, Mayor Adrian O. Mapp said it was "important not to put a lot of information out there on security."
Asked whether there were any other quotes, West said another one was for $65,000. Rivers asked if there were three and said, "In the future, give the council all that information."
Councilwoman Rebecca Williams said she thought the resolution should be moved to the agenda as it was "really critical" to protect residents and staff.
The 20-minute discussion ended with Taylor calling for a consensus and all agreed to move it to the Monday (April 11) agenda.