Cisco Company Partner in Tempe Giving $527,000 "Donation" to County; Sheriff's Office Questions Deal

A planned $527,000 "donation" to Maricopa County's IT department by Tempe-based Insight Networking (a.k.a. Calence) looks suspicious to the sheriff's office.

After a hearing last week over the sheriff's takeover of the ICJIS system, Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott told New Times and other news media he questioned the "gift."

"Why would anybody give that out of the goodness of their heart?" Hendershott wondered.

Frankly, that's a good question.

And today, we received an anonymous letter postmarked August 9 (was it from Hendershott? We don't know...) that mentions the donation and essentially accuses the county's chief information officer, Steve Wetzl, of being a tool for computing giant Cisco Systems.

The county Board of Supervisors was approved the donation at its August 5 meeting.

Click here for the complete agenda. The text relevant to the donation follows:

Office of Enterprise Technology


Approve a donation from Calence/Insight Network Solutions for consulting, engineering services, hardware and software to Maricopa County via the Office of Enterprise Technology (OET) in support of evaluating and upgrading the Network Operations Center(s) with a value not-to-exceed $527,000. Services consist of one level 1 engineer for a period of 12 months, one level 2 engineer for a period of 12 months, one NOC manager for a period of 12 months.

In addition, Calence will evaluate and assist Maricopa County OET with upgrading existing hardware/ software network management tools as needed (up to $80,000 of the estimated total value of $527,000).

OET will provide indirect support via project management to provide technical direction and necessary accessibility and require no additional resources for this project.

This donation does not commit Maricopa County for any future encumbrances for business with Calence.

On April 18, 2007, the Board of Supervisors approved agenda C-41-07-012-1-00 for the purchase of equipment, Project Management, Business Analysts and Engineering staff, Professional Installation Services, Training, Disaster Recovery Location, and Cabling and Accessories for the upgrade to the network infrastructure in the Downtown Campus and Clustered Data Centers. This donation is in alignment with the direction of this project plan.

Through this donation, any hardware and software purchased by Calence and provided to Maricopa County as part of this donation will include four years of pre-paid support and maintenance. OET believes that this donation by Calence will be of significant help in positioning OET employees to gain the knowledge and tools needed to manage our Network Operations Center. After such time and upon completion of all upgrades, changes and recommendations, OET will have the necessary skills to operate the new NOC. (C-41-10-001-D-00)

Needless to say, the part about the donation not committing the county to anything does not pass the smell test.

The letter, (imaged below), accuses Wetzl of "excessive spending" at the county's Office of Enterprise Technology. Wetzel is the former program director for the Cisco Networking Technology Program at GateWay Community College.

According to the letter (grammatical errors and crappy writing unchanged):

No where is Mr. Wetzel's unsupervised and unchecked spending more evident than at the County Attorney or the County Record offices. Both local IT Directors were caught off guard when Calence work men waltzed into these offices and proceed to wire them with Cisco wireless access points. Hundred's of thousands of dollars were spent wiring these offices and more for Cisco WiFi, only to find out that security rules governing wireless transmission of the sensitive data these offices handle, ever prohibit them from turning them on!

Additionally, Mr. Wetzel has spent millions on Cisco racks, routers and installation labor in order to build his "Gigabit to the desktop" across the County. Much of the equipment is still not turned on, yet the County is already on year two of a three year Cisco warranty!

A trip to the basement of the County's 301 building will show stacks of expensive Cisco equipment still sitting in their original boxes, uninstalled.

Hopefully, you can make out the rest of the letter from the images below -- if you have any IT experience and care to comment on these allegations, please do. All that talk about "Cisco 6509s" and "gigabit infrastructure" makes our head spin.

The letter also states that a member of the Board of Supervisors, (whom the letter, suspiciously, does not name), traveled to Sweden on Cisco's dime to attend Al Gore's Nobel Prize ceremony.

We left messages for Wetzel and his boss, deputy county manager Sandi Wilson, who may be able to explain some of this stuff. We'll let you know what they say when they call back.

Images of letter below:

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.