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Essex County contract questions prompt "politics" charge

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A special prosecutor is looking into whether Essex County's clerk and some of his employees showed favor when they awarded a contract for document scanning.

But discussion about the investigation during a board of supervisors meeting this week prompted complaints that the matter is being politicized in an attempt to hurt Clerk Joe Provoncha's re-election bid.

Chris Morris reports

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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County Manager Dan Palmer said this week that a Freedom of Information Law request filed with the county back in June prompted him to contact county District Attorney Kristy Sprague and county Attorney Dan Manning.

He said a reporter with the Valley News of Fulton, in Oswego County, sought out emails exchanged between the clerk's office and Info Quick Solutions, a Liverpool-based firm that provides hardware and software for image scanning of deeds, pistol permits and other documents.

According to Palmer, supervisors awarded a contract to IQS in December 2010 at the recommendation of Provoncha.

But emails exchanged between IQS and employees in the clerk's office revealed that the contract was being discussed before it was awarded.

Palmer declined to comment when asked if emails between the clerk's office and IQS contained language that provided the vendor with an unfair advantage over other bidders.

Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne is examining the communications between IQS and the clerk's office to establish if something illegal occurred.

Champagne said he's conducted other, similar investigations that sometimes lead to the DA passing the case to another agency, like the state Comptroller's Office.

But for now, Champagne said he can't comment on this case specifically.

Meanwhile, supervisors refused to enter executive session to discuss the case earlier this week.

County Attorney Manning proposed a closed-door meeting, but none of the 16 supervisors present offered a motion to do so.

Supervisor Tom Scozzafava of Moriah said because Provoncha is an elected official, the matter should be discussed publicly.

Other lawmakers were upset the matter was being discussed at all. Joyce Morency of St. Armand said the discussion damaged Provoncha’s re-election bid, going so far as to say the discussion amount to a vendetta against the county clerk.

County Chairman Randy Douglas said the matter has been handed to the county’s Ethics Committee.

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