TALLAHASSEE -- When the Florida Senate was looking for someone to put its budget data online, it set aside $5.5 million and turned to the business partner of a close friend of the Senate’s chief of staff at the time, Steve MacNamara.
The developer of the program, Anna Jo Mattson, owns a software company with Tallahassee lawyer and lobbyist Jim Eaton, MacNamara’s long-time friend. She also owns Spider Data Services, the company that developed the software program licensed by the Senate. She said Tuesday the companies are not related.
MacNamara did not respond to requests for comment.
MacNamara negotiated the contract with Mattson in February when he worked for Senate President Mike Haridopolos. He left the Senate to become Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff in July. To date, Mattson has been paid $5 million for development of the no-bid project. Another $2.5 million has been set aside in the governor’s 2012-13 budget to pay for access to her patented program next year.
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“What we’ve got is state of the art in terms of budget transparency programs,’’ said Craig Meyer, who succeeded MacNamara as Senate chief of staff.
He said making the state’s budget process more openly accessible was Haridopolos’ priority after a grand jury accused former House Speaker Ray Sansom of misusing the process. He said the no-bid contract was needed because only Mattson had the patent to her unique program.
“It didn’t come together as quick as we hoped so we could roll it out” during Haridopolos’ term, he said.
When launched, the program will provide the public and budget analysts the ability to drill down into detailed levels of the budget and pull out employees, contracts and vendors associated with each line item, Meyer said.
The money came from the Senate’s $9.2 million Information Technology discretionary budget in 2010-11. That same pot of money allowed MacNamara to hire Abraham Uccello as a consultant for the Senate’s web-based technologies.
The two computer projects are not related, Meyer said.
Neither of the projects, however, were put out for bid and both were given to people closely associated with MacNamara.
MacNamara served on the board of Uccello’s family-owned company, Sarasota-based Sign Media Systems, a brand-marketing company. Uccello has been paid $360,000 for helping the Senate shift its computers away from mainframe technology. Meyer said that project has saved the Senate $12 million.
Unlike state agencies, the Legislature is not bound by a state law that requires single-source contracts topping $195,000 to undergo a vigorous multi-phase review by state procurement officers.
Mattson, a former House budget analyst who has been developing her budget access program for several years, formed Ali Data Link with Eaton on Nov. 30, 2010. Two months later, in January 2011, Mattson formed Spider Data Services and, a month later, signed the contract with MacNamara to give the Senate access to her patented budget analysis program.
Mattson is barred by the contract from discussing the software program without Senate permission, but she said that the company she formed with Eaton “involves a separate software application related to local government systems.” She said she and Eaton are working “to market that application to local governments in Florida and elsewhere.”
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