After a backroom meeting with the Texas Conference of Urban Counties (CUC) and Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, the Dallas County Commissioners Court will seek a “pause” from paying any more taxpayer money into the TechShare.Court program.
As has been previously reported by Texas Scorecard, TechShare.Court is the failed software boondoggle that’s been in development for around 8 years. It was supposed to replace the outdated court software Dallas and Tarrant counties had, but after millions of dollars there’s still no usable product.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and District 4 Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia were the only representatives of Dallas County present in the meeting with the CUC and Whitley. Whitley is the Vice-Chair of TechShare on the board of the CUC. The CUC was scheduled to give a presentation on TechShare.Court’s status during the February 5 commissioners court meeting, but they pulled out at the last minute.
“Speaks volumes they cancelled at the last minute so they wouldn’t have to address the scrutiny they rightly should face,” said District 2 Commissioner J.J. Koch.
Jenkins reported that, in the meeting with Whitley, the CUC blamed a Dallas County employee for the fact that they would not be able to meet their deadline of March 31 for TechShare.Court. Jenkins said CUC told him the employee was reporting problems with the software that needed attention.
The backroom meeting comes on the heels of Dallas’ district and county clerks saying they are pulling all of their staff off working on TechShare.Court, effective February 6, because “there’s no activity, or plan of action or schedule for completion.”
Jenkins told the court the CUC presented several “consequences” should Dallas County opt to withdraw entirely from the TechShare.Court program. Among the consequences was that Dallas would be given an incomplete product on March 31 and would have to pick up the tab on its own to make it operational.
“Is there a potential for litigation?” asked District 3 Commissioner John Wiley Price. Jenkins acknowledged there was, but that he is not threatening to sue anyone.
Jenkins outlined, as he saw it, the choices before the court: continue spending taxpayer money on the program, cut off all spending and trigger the “consequences” the CUC outlined, or accept the option of a “pause” that the CUC offered. This “pause” would mean Dallas County would stop paying taxpayer money into TechShare.Court and wait until it went live in Tarrant County.
Once it went live, Dallas could evaluate whether or not the software meets their expectations; if it did, they would resume spending. If the software doesn’t meet expectations, the county could decline to resume spending. If the deadline for Tarrant County going live, September 31, isn’t met, Dallas could make a decision then.
Koch agreed to the “pause” option but still had concerns. “We’ve already been down this road for five years… [I’m] very concerned dealing with these folks at all is driving our taxpayers into some real potential problems.”
Jenkins added he felt the court should, during this pause, hire an outside consultant who wasn’t with a competitor to evaluate the situation and advise Dallas County how to proceed regarding the software. “We have spent $32 million with these guys,” Jenkins said regarding TechShare.Court. “$32 million spent on a program we have nothing for.”
District 1 Commissioner Dr. Theresa Daniel interjected that number was incorrect. After an exchange between commissioners and staff connected to the project, Craig Morrisey, the head project manager for all of TechShare, acknowledged that the grand total taxpayers have spent on the software, including full-time employees, is “30-ish” million dollars over a five-year period.
Texas Scorecard had previously reported that it was at least $24 million, but those numbers did not include money spent on full-time employees working on the project.
Koch pointed out that the fully functional applications offered by TechShare (Prosecutor, Indigent Defense, and Juvenile) were developed by Tarrant, Dallas, and Bell counties before the CUC took over. “Charles Grey, who is now the head of TechShare, has never seen a successful project!”
“He’s never delivered, never,” he said. “You piss away $6 million more dollars if you let them do this!”
The majority of the commissioners agreed to moving forward with the pause, but how they’d go about it will be decided in executive session where they will consult with their attorney.
Price then summoned a member of the Protective Order Court and asked for a follow-up on their software situation. This court pulled out of TechShare.Court last year and opted to use Odyssey, a software available on the open market, instead. Odyssey was paid for by a grant from the governor’s office. The member reported that it was a smooth transition to Odyssey. “We’re up and running.”