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Call For Action Investigation: City's New Phone System

By: Betty Sexton Email
By: Betty Sexton Email

You're looking at video of one of the city's new phones. It's just a small part of a system that's costing the city of Colorado Springs $3.4 million dollars.
That's according to documents obtained by 11News.
But I'm told the city could've opted to simply upgrade the system it already had for a mere $500,000.
One of those who first sounded the alarm was Denise Fishlock, the city's former Avaya account representative. She read the following statement to the mayor and city council members:
"Why would there be a need to replace your phones when you have a perfectly running world class system that might need a tune-up, not a replacement."
Denise went on to say the 3,000 Avaya phones which had been used by city employees for more than 15 years, were being tossed out for an inferior system.
She argued the $1.7 million Avaya investment should be upgraded not replaced.
Denise adds, "Dismissing this investment when an upgrade clearly offers a substantial savings over full replacement is not a good use of taxpayer dollars."
Former city employee Gene Bray echoed her sentiments.
He says, "We are wasting money. We don't need to spend it and I can't figure out for the life of me figure out why."
Bray worked for the city of Colorado Springs for more than 10 years. He says he couldn't believe the city was embarking on a huge spending spree during a recession.
He says he argued for the upgrade and against buying a new phone system, but says the new head of the city's I.T. department, Curlie Matthews made it clear... the city would be getting Cisco phones.
Bray continues, "There are ways to reduce the budget on this and we were specifically told not to look at them..." "... I think that's the reason I don't have a job."
I talked extensively with two other former city employees who didn't want to appear on camera. They were afraid their colleagues might lose their jobs.
They tell me they, too told Matthews the Avaya phones didn't have to be replaced simply upgraded, but I'm told he wouldn't listen."
And employees weren't the only ones who were suspicious. I heard from vendors like Jim Rader with Foundry Networks, now known as Brocade Communications. He bid on the project. He says proposal information put out by the city sent a clear message. It preferred Cisco.
Jim Rader says, "That pretty much tells you they've got their mind made up as to what they want and what they want everybody to respond with..." "... The taxpayers are the big losers here."
After several requests, the city agreed to meet with me, but only if I promised not to bring a camera.
I sat down with the head of I.T., Curlie Matthews as well as the city's Chief Financial Officer, Terri Velasquez, at the City Administration Building.
They both said the city's Avaya phone system was obsolete. But I'm told that is simply not true.
Matthews and Velasquez also mentioned two phone failures at police department precincts, but I later learned those problems didn't even involve Avaya equipment.
When I asked about all those claims made by former employees and vendors, they dismissed it as sour grapes.
They say the reason Cisco was mentioned in bidding information put out by the city is because it uses so much Cisco equipment now and it's important to stay with Cisco for the conversion.
But I'm told the city uses many different operating systems besides Cisco.
We tried to meet with the City Manager, Penny Culbreth-Graft, but she said Matthews and Velasquez speak for her.
City leaders say they believe their new system is superior to the old one.


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