Winburn: City 'ambushed' council over radio deal

Posted at 11:45 AM, Dec 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-06 11:45:27-05

CINCINNATI – Charlie Winburn says the city "ambushed" city council with a last-minute rush to buy new police radios but he won't go through with his threat to block the $5.4 million purchase.

Winburn, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, tabled a motion last week, saying he wanted the city to consider minority bids. But City Manager Harry Black, in a memo to council and the mayor on Monday, argued that the city could lose almost $1 million in discounts if it doesn't order phones through its current contractor, Motorola, by Dec. 11.

READ Black's memo here or below:

In a statement Tuesday, Winburn doesn't dispute that the police need new phones and said he would encourage other council members to vote Wednesday to move forward with the purchase. But Winburn lambasted the city, saying:

"The City Administration had over one year to prepare City Council regarding this Motorola contract, but they dropped the ball and failed to keep City Council in the loop.

"The City Administration ambushed City Council by rushing the Motorola contract through without meeting city inclusion policy."

Winburn didn't mention that Black had sent a proposal for a complete radio system upgrade to council on Oct. 22, 2014. That called for a municipal lease purchase agreement with Motorola for up to $13.8 million. Winburn voted yes and the ordinance passed, giving the city approval to work out this deal with Motorola.

Black told WCPO that city officials should have done a better job of communicating with council.

"There was some misunderstanding. There was some confusion," Black said.  "We probably could have done a better job in terms of communicating what it was."

The city's deal with Motorola includes 1,546 radios plus accessories (e.g., batteries, belt clips, roof mounts, chargers, etc.). The non-discounted price would be about $6.4 million, according to the city.

In his Monday memo, Black said the city would get a 25 percent discount through the state and another 15 percent negotiated by the city, plus a $175,000 discount if it places the order by the end of next week.

"Failure to place the order by [Dec. 11] could put the city at risk of losing out on the … discounts, which would increase the purchase price … by approximately $985,150," Black said.