School bus camera contract under review in Montgomery Co.

Montgomery County, Maryland, schools plan to renegotiate a contract to put stop arm cameras on its school bus fleet, and the county’s inspector general wants more documentation.

Megan Davey Limarzi, who was appointed inspector general in September, noted the current contract is “slightly unusual.”

During a meeting Monday with two Montgomery County Council committees, Limarzi noted her own department’s report — carried out by her predecessor, Edward Blansitt — found “no one broke any rules, no one committed any criminal violations that we could find.”

But Davey Limarzi told officials, “You’ve got to make sure that you can back up and document” what is agreed to with the vendor, “because we are held, as public officials, as public employees, to a higher standard.”

In 2016, the school system contracted with a school bus camera business, Force Multiplier Solutions, to install cameras that take videos when cars illegally pass stopped school buses. Those videos would be used to issue citations to drivers.

The revenue from those citations would go to the vendor in exchange for installation of the cameras “at no cost” to the county.

The agreement is the result of a “bridge contract” that’s modeled on one the vendor had with the East Baton Rouge school district in Louisiana. In that agreement, the school district got a share of the revenues, but under Montgomery County’s agreement, there is no revenue sharing from citations issued.

In August 2018, the former CEO of Force Multiplier Solutions, Robert Leonard, pleaded guilty to federal charges in a bribery and kickback scheme. That scheme was tied to a school system in Dallas.

Montgomery County then reported the camera program would continue with a new firm known as Bus Patrol, which included a number of former employees of Force Multiplier Solutions.

An official with the company explained at the time Bus Patrol retained some staff from Force Multiplier Solutions because they needed their technical expertise to manage the tech platform.

At Monday’s hearing, County Council members Will Jawando and Evan Glass asked whether the county is recouping any revenues from issued citations.

David Anderson, Montgomery County assistant police chief, said, “We have not reached a rev-share agreement yet,” referring to a revenue-sharing arrangement.

Anderson also said there’s a non-disclosure agreement with the vendor, but the Police Department carried out an audit.

“I promise you that I have a whole team of people, to include the county attorney, that are looking at every piece of that report,” Anderson said. “And anything that we see as an issue, we’ll address.”

Glass said he was confused by some of the terms of the contract, and cited redactions in the original agreement. While he was heartened to hear an internal review had been done by police.

“I leave this conversation with some questions,” Glass said.

Councilmember Craig Rice, who has been a vocal supporter of the stop arm camera program, suggested county officials consult with the inspector general while renegotiating the contract.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan reported from Rockville, Maryland.

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