Call For Action Investigation: City's New Phone System

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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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by TRUTH Location: COLORADO SPRINGS on Sep 27, 2009 at 06:02 AM
    Since we are talking about our tax $$$, not theirs: 1) Why did the CIO & Team call for "No Cameras" during the interview with Betty? 2) The city never argued the fact that the Avaya solution was 75% less expensive - so can we assume that there is no arguement over that "fact". 3) If there are no shenanigans here, why is the city so defensive? They should not only WANT to talk to Betty about their decision - they should want to brag about it. 4) If there is nothing to hide here, why did the city make Betty wait so long for an interview? What "damage control" did they have to do before answering her "approved" questions? 5) According to Gartner, Avaya has the best Call Processing in Communications, so what is the city basing their arguement over? I have found in life, that where there is smoke, there is usually fire, and there are just too many city employees who DON'T want to talk about this decision. They're playing with our $$$, not theirs! They owe us answers!
  • by Fred Location: CS on Sep 25, 2009 at 06:30 PM
    This report is loaded with errors an omitted information. Is it KKTV's policy to omit facts. This reporter apparently used the Colorado Open Record Act to get information. This means that she got everyhing hat the city had on the new phone sytem. Why didn't she read it since she hown th files on her desk. If the information was to technical, thn she hould have asked an independent expert to tranlate it before coming to conclusions. Shame on Betty Sexton and KKTV for doing a hack job!!
  • by Colo89 Location: Colo Spgs on Sep 25, 2009 at 12:04 AM
    Memorial Hospital has the same phone system
  • by Animal lover Location: Colorado Springs on Sep 24, 2009 at 12:30 PM
    I want more information on this before I stone the City for something it did. First---Has any one asked the City for the other RFP'S regarding this project? Betty stated that she spoke to two other employee's that are no longer with the city and used the lame excuse they did not want to put their other friend's in harm's way.... WHY??? Maybe their friend's are giving them bogus information..... I think Call for Action needs to do a little more leg work before they use the voice of Gene Bray and two other ex employee's.... As a citizen I find it hard to believe that three EX-EMPLOYEE'S is who Betty used for a story. Please, let's get more creditable information before we run The city CIO out of town.
  • by Refurbished Location: cos on Sep 23, 2009 at 05:35 AM
    Good point to look into the details. In fact,the Avaya system our firm uses offered: "refurbished equiptment" which can be upgraded at a lower costs rather than re inventing entire systems. Possibly this was also an option?
  • by Roger Location: Colorado Springs on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:03 AM
    There is a lot of information missing here, such as how many phone sets does this new system support? What was the cost of equipment? Cost of Labor? Ongoing cost of support? Are they able to reduce lines or PRI's by moving to this system? Without all of this information it will be impossible to determine if the city got a good deal or a bad deal on this system. That being said anyone that deploys Cisco or Avaya is paying for name more than functionality. There are many systems out their today that will do everything that the city could require for a lot less. With the new technologies in the market including a lot of new Open Source technologies such as Asterisk anyone who buys Cisco or Avaya is throwing away money. To truly get to the bottom line the reporters are going to have to quit interviewing and getting peoples opinions and get a truly independent non-biased company to do and audit. Put this on a factual basis instead of an opinionated one. Roger Duncan
  • by Me on Sep 22, 2009 at 09:48 PM
    @Steve > Go to your city government and raise your concerns! Judging by what the reporter said on air, she tried to do this. I'm not defending anyone either; other than Gene and you must realize he wasn't an ex-employee as you state when he first brought up concerns! I agree with all of your questions. However, the reporter did go to the city ask for numbers. The city refused to talk on camera (so much for serving the people eh?) and did not provide detailed answers. The city did not provide financial numbers. The city did not provide a trade study showing why one vendor was the superior choice. The city did not articulate why the phones were needed other than they wanted to have a single vendor solution (maybe the CIO is deductively reasoning O&M would go down in such a scheme but nobody knows for sure because the city will NOT talk). Most of your questions were asked and the city had no comment.
  • by Brian Location: Colorado Springs on Sep 22, 2009 at 09:17 PM
    A lot is being missed. First...the cost is not $3.7 million it is $10.4 million. Ask why the difference and they will tell you that they had to upgrade all of the network nodes for the Cisco VOIP system to work. They did not have to do that upgrade for the Avaya VOIP system. Secondly ...do you really think that there is no cost in the CISCO maintenance. I dare say CISCO is famous for maintenance cost and they will be as much or more than the Avaya cost. I have no relationship to any vendors and I have never had any dealings with Avaya so forget the sour grapes!
  • by AvayaVsCisco Location: Denver on Sep 22, 2009 at 08:53 PM
    CISCO is not the leader in Voice over IP technology. Sometimes they act like Gore and say they "invented it" but that is not true. Avaya did. Avaya and CISCO are head to head in the VOIP world. I would say they are both the LEADERS! Betty please find the TCO on all proposals that responded to the RFP. That's how we will find the answer. Ray - Voice over IP can share the same network as the data network and save millions in dedicated phone lines and trunk lines. Cisco is the leader in such technology WRONG! Citizen - they wanted a Cisco system because that's who the leaders in technology are. WRONG! Citizen4Truth - I know of these facts due to other affiliations. WRONG! Fess up on your affiliations! You are not correct in anything you say about Avaya maintenance.
  • by Steve Location: Colorado Springs on Sep 22, 2009 at 06:54 PM
    I'm a project manager supporting IT infrastructures for the Federal government. I've dealt with various technology providers (HP, Dell, Cisco, Oracle, to name a few) and have nothing against them making a buck. My point was not about Avaya, former employees, nor the $3.4M. It was about the reporting. Doesn't anyone care about the specifics? There's not one shred of detail in this report. Not one! Even the $3.4M is misleading. Don't you want to know why the upgrade was pursued? Why were Avaya and former employees the only people quoted in this article? Why was Cisco selected? When selecting an upgrade of the existing system as compared to replacing it with Cisco, show me the cost/benefit analysis. You don't have to agree with whether or not the money is being spent correctly - just ask questions of the media and your government. Go to your city government and raise your concerns!
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