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ALATORRE ALLIES' DEALINGS WITH CITY QUESTIONED.

Byline: Patrick McGreevy Daily News Staff Writer

A business group with close ties to Councilman Richard Alatorre is pushing hard, with Alatorre's help, for a $50 million police-radio contract despite serious concerns about the deal raised by other city officials.

Alatorre is chairman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee, which has recommended that the voice-radio contract go to a consortium headed by Motorola and including subcontractors Cordoba Corp. and Pacifica Services Inc.

Cordoba owner George Pla and Pacifica head Ernest Camacho are close political allies of Alatorre. Camacho served as the councilman's campaign treasurer, and Pla has employed Alatorre's son in the past.

The proposal to award the contract is on the agenda for today's City Council meeting, but Councilwoman Laura Chick and others said they will ask that it be delayed because of concern about work on a $21 million city contract that Motorola already holds to upgrade the Los Angeles Police Department's mobile digital terminal system.

``On the MDT piece, there are some very serious questions that need to be answered in a reassuring way,'' Chick said. ``Until that happens, I don't want to move one step closer to signing over - lock, stock and barrel - the future of the city's 911 system.''

Chick is chairwoman of the council's Public Safety Committee, which this week recommended that the radio contract award be delayed until next month. Meanwhile, the committee said, Motorola should explain a 21-month delay in completing work on a previous contract to install a new MDT system for patrol cars.

Because of problems with the MDT contract, Police Chief Bernard C. Parks also has reservations about awarding the new contract to Motorola.

In a Dec. 4 letter to Motorola executives, Parks complained that the MDT contract is ``significantly behind schedule'' and said he has heard that Motorola plans to propose reductions in performance specifications.

``Frankly, the fact that such a proposal is being considered causes the department to seriously question whether Motorola is committed to honoring its obligations under this contract,'' Parks wrote.

State of the art

It is critical that the MDTs be state-of-the-art computer terminals that allow officers to retrieve and send fingerprints, digital images and other information, Parks wrote.

The chief said the city could have spent much less money for an off-the-shelf system but was promised a customized system from Motorola to meet the LAPD's needs.

Parks said he believes Motorola is about to propose a major change in the system design involving ``a significant reduction in the MDT system performance (and) an extension of the existing schedule, all at a significant increase over the contract price.''

Parks wrote to the Motorola executives: ``In all candor, I must tell you that such a proposal will not be well received.''

In fact, on Monday, the council's Public Safety Committee demanded answers before it recommends awarding the new radio contract.

Parks also threatened to link the two contracts.

``Since the city may be committing to a $50 million expanded voice radio system project with Motorola, I cannot help but have reservations about Motorola's commitment to that project in light of our experience with the MDT upgrade project,'' Parks wrote Dec. 4.

Parks was on vacation Thursday and unavailable for comment, but Linda Bunker, the LAPD's communications project manager, said there are still questions about how Motorola will complete the MDT contract. Bunker said she has not yet been told what changes in the MDT program Motorola will seek and how much they would cost.

``I don't have a clue,'' she said.

Despite continuing concerns about the MDT contract, however, the department is prepared to recommend today that the critical voice-radio contract be awarded now to Motorola while the LAPD works out its concerns with the firm over the MDT contract. Po`lice Cmdr. Carlo Cudio said that will be the recommendation if the council asks.

Alatorre did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Motorola spokeswoman Pat Sturman said she does not know how much the change in the MDT contract will add to its cost or delays, but believes Motorola can answer the city's concerns.

``It is state-of-the-art technology,'' she said. ``We're confident that we can provide a system that can meet the public safety needs of the city.''

Sturman said Motorola has agreed to wait for action on the voice-radio contract until the questions about the MDT system are answered in talks scheduled to begin today.

``We just decided it would best to reconvene and address these issues separately and then go forward with the (contract),'' she said.

While questions were asked about the MDT contract, officials of a company called Ericsson also charged that the city designed the specifications for the radio contract so that only Motorola could bid.

Ericsson officials have told council members that their company could do the radio project with better technology for $30 million.

Ken Spiker, a representative of Ericsson, said he ``absolutely'' believes Motorola has gained an advantage in pursuit of the contract by hiring Alatorre allies Pla and Camacho.

Motorola bias

Ericsson executive David Kernan claimed the whole bidding process has been biased in favor of Motorola.

``We clearly were not given fair treatment,'' he said.

Sturman flatly denied that Motorola hired Pla and Camacho for their connections to Alatorre. She said all subcontractors are selected after an arduous process to determine whether they can perform the work well.

``They are contractors we are comfortable with and that we have confidence in,'' Sturman said of Pla and Camacho.

Ericsson officials claimed their company was not given advance notice of the Dec. 2 meeting in which Alatorre's committee recommended that the Motorola group get the contract.

The committee made the recommendation after little discussion of Ericsson's claims that the contract was being handled improperly, one Ericsson official said.

``It was on there for two minutes and it was over,'' the official said.

A City Hall source also said Alatorre recommended awarding the contract to the Motorola consortium with little discussion about Ericsson's claims. The source said Alatorre had requested that the matter be brought to his committee on a fast-track basis.

Motorola has hired lobbyist Katherine Moret, a close friend of Alatorre's, to push the contract.

Under the contract, Pla and Camacho would satisfy goals for minority involvement.

Camacho's firm would get $5.48 million of equipment-installation work under the contract.

Receive $3.3 million

Pla's company would get $3.3 million for working on construction design and electrical plans, coordinating permits and preparing progress reports.

Neither Pla nor Camacho returned calls for comment Thursday.

Controversy has surrounded contract proposals involving Pla and Camacho.

Pla's firm was part of a consortium supported by Alatorre for a lucrative Eastside rail contract by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. That contract is being rebid after questions were raised about a recommendation that the consortium get the contract although it was ranked third by transit officials.

The two Alatorre allies were part of another consortium that was a contender for a $15 million city contract to oversee earthquake cleanup work in 1994, despite criticism that riot-cleanup work they had overseen in 1992 ended up taking a year when it was supposed to be done in six months.

Mayor Richard Riordan blocked the quake contract and had the work done by city employees.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 19, 1997
Words:1211
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