Revolving Door: Motorola Employee Taints $1 Billion DMS Procurement

by | Oct 11, 2016

A law enforcement radio procurement study commissioned by Florida’s Department of Management Services (DMS) utilized a Motorola Solutions sales manager who briefly left the company to participate as an indepedent consultant in the study. When the study was complete, the man then returned to work for Motorola in a similar sales management position, records show.  The DMS study is part of a long-term plan to modernize the state’s radio systems, and future contracts could be worth as much as $1 billion, making the procurement process highly competitive.

Florida already has a statewide law enforcement radio system (SLERS) and a contract in place to manage it through 2021, when new nationwide compatibility standards come online for a system called FirstNet. But those new standards have not been finalized, raising more questions about the timing of the study.

Adding further intrigue is the involvement of Motorola Solutions sales manager Clay Whitehead, who left Motorola briefly to work as an independent consultant for Tusa Consulting, which landed the contract to advise state officials on whether to or not to outsource the procurement of the new radio system.

Whitehead started working for Motorola Solutions as an engineer in July of 1996, and spent more than five years in that role before taking a new job in sales management for the company. For more than a decade prior to his involvement in the DMS study, he worked as Market Development Manager, where one of his key responsibilities was to drive growth in a “multi-state territory for government wireless communications solutions.”

Based out of Atlanta, Whitehead’s biggest state market was, and still is, Florida.

In April of 2014, Whitehead left his long-time employer and went to work for Tusa Consulting Services, a firm that specializes advising governments on the technical aspects of radio system design and procurement. The DMS-ordered radio study coincided perfectly with Whitehead’s departure from Motorola and subsequent tour of duty at Tusa Consulting, just long enough for him to influence the report, receive thank yous and acknowledgements from state officials, and return to work at Motorola in April 2015.

It is not unusual for Tusa to hire engineers with highly technical radio expertise.The company has a reputation for being vendor agnostic in its recommendations to clients, and even disclosed Whitehead’s Motorola background, as well as that of other consultants with experience at other vendors, to Florida officials prior to landing the contract to perform the study.

But while most of those consultants remained with Tusa after the study was completed, Whitehead is once again in government sales for Motorola, where he is responsible for “sales capture in a complex and highly competitive government sales environment.” According to his LinkedIn profile, his “customer base includes public safety agencies at the state and local government level throughout the Southeastern United States.”

While Whitehead’s inside knowledge of the study could give Motorola an unfair advantage in the procurement process, a DMS spokeswoman says the agency strives to remain vendor neutral in all procurement studies.

“The Department of Management Services goes to great lengths to protect the integrity of the solicitation process for all procurements,” says DMS spokeswoman Maggie Mickler. “Florida Statutes direct the agency to eliminate all opportunities for favoritism and to establish a uniform system that inspires public confidence through awarding contracts that are equitable.”

While Mickler also pointed out that the study included consultants who formerly worked for Motorola competitor Harris Corporation, it appears Whitehead’s revolving door employment with one potential vendor is unique among the consultants who participated in the study.

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  1. nicktusa

    Mr. Burgess,

    Your story, while steeped in intrigue, is woefully inaccurate and contains gross distortions of Reality. Mr. Whitehead joined my firm in early 2014. He and I had initiated discussions concerning his career change in late 2013. Neither he nor Tusa Consulting Services (TUSA) had any idea or intention of pursuing a contract for consulting services with Florida’s Department of Management Services DMS. In fact, DMS did not release an RFP for those services until mid-summer of 2014 and, at that, the solicitation was directed only to firms that were already under contract to perform services for DMS. TUSA became a subcontractor to one of those pre-qualified firms in July 2014 – many months after Whitehead initiated discussions to join my firm.

    Mr. Whitehead, prior to our team’s selection to develop the SLERS business case, was assigned to TUSA projects within the states of Georgia and Mississippi. In fact, Mr. Whitehead was but one of multiple TUSA consultants along with members of the prime contractor group who jointly developed the subject SLERS business case documents. Some months after the conclusion of the work in January 2015, Mr. Whitehead did eventually depart TUSA, but his decision for doing so was personal and not as implied by your article.

    Articles like these are often the result of ‘seeding’ by radio vendors to paint a likely competitor in an unfavorable light. Unfortunately, the lure of a potential $1B contract over the projected 15-20 year life of a project of this type brings out the worst in some who deem it necessary to damage a person or firm’s reputation rather than compete openly and professionally in a true open procurement process.

    Dominic F. Tusa
    Tusa Consulting Services II, LLC
    Covington, LA

  2. Mr. Johnson

    The principle of “go where the food is” must be lost on you, Mr. Burgess.

    Given that there was full disclosure of Mr. Whitehead’s former association with Motorola, there is nothing improper about his participation with Tusa Consulting regarding this contract.

    It is very reasonable to assume that Mr. Whitehead would have chosen to go to work with the winning vendor after the contract was awarded, even if it had been Harris Corporation. If you need work, it’s always wise to go to work with companies that just got a big contract.

    I see nothing at all improper about this. And I speak as a generally skeptical individual with many years of radios systems experience with multiple vendors myself. I have seen every major vendor pull some absolutely ridiculous and in some cases illegal stunts to win and hold contracts. But I do not see Mr. Whitehead’s actions as being questionable in any way.

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