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FirstNet Asks Commerce IG to Look Into Contractors, Ethics Issues

FirstNet board Chairman Sam Ginn has asked the Commerce Department's Office of the Inspector General to help with the investigation into concerns about how FirstNet's board was operating and how it was dealing with contractors.

FirstNet is the organization overseeing the development of the interoperable broadband emergency communications network being funded with proceeds from spectrum auctions.

The board established a review committee to look into allegations by Board Member Sherriff Paul Fitzgerald, which reported back that the board's decisionmaking was open and transparent. But as to ethics and procurement issues, which FirstNet said would be the subject of a second report, Ginn told the board this week he had asked the Commerce IG to take over given that the issues are "complicated."

Fitzgerald, in a resolution, raised concerns in an April 23 board meeting about whether the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) was giving board members equal access to records and whether its network plan was being developed without input from all board members and Public Safety Advisory Board members.

A special committee was formed to investigate the concerns.

Fitzgerald had problems with, among other things, briefing and conference calls outside of board meetings, which he said had not been publicly announced or disclosed. The committee, which included representatives of the Attorney General's office, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security, concluded the calls and briefings did not constitute decisionmaking, voting or narrowing of any options for the network.

As to board members having access to information, Fitzgerald said he was unable to get access to on how outside consultants for the project were picked and how much they were paid.